The Yomiuri Shimbun July 31, 2013
Opposition parties should focus on policies before realignment talks
The current political climate is described as consisting of the powerful Liberal Democratic Party and many weak opposition parties. Although opposition parties rivaling the huge ruling party are needed, such a prospect appears remote.
After the recent House of Councillors election, questions were raised over the responsibility of the party leadership of the Democratic Party of Japan and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party). But it has been decided the top leaders of these parties will stay on.
There have been talks about realignment involving the two parties and Your Party. But with party leaders who could not form a united front in the upper house election, it will be no easy task for the parties to unite or realign themselves.
The DPJ decided that former party leader Naoto Kan, who openly supported an independent candidate in the upper house poll, be suspended from the party for three months. The punishment was lenient given the initial calls to expel him from the party. There is strong discontent over the continued party leadership of Banri Kaieda, and it remains unclear how the party can reconstruct itself.
Since its foundation, there have been significant differences over basic policies among DPJ party members. This has caused a lack of party unity, which is seen as the DPJ’s weakest point. We strongly doubt Kaieda can exercise the leadership needed to overcome confrontations over policies among party members.
Akihiro Ohata has been chosen for the post of DPJ secretary general. Ohata, who was previously acting party president, had belonged to the former Japan Socialist Party and enjoys the strong support of labor unions. Thus, the DPJ’s reliance on labor unions is likely to increase.
In the proportional representation segment of the upper house election, six of the party’s seven winners were those who ran with organizational support from the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo).
Unified views lacking
Regarding realignment of opposition parties, Kaieda said, “The important thing is that the DPJ plays the leading role.” But we think he does not understand the party’s current position.
Ishin no Kai coleader Toru Hashimoto and some others within the party indeed consider the DPJ’s reliance on labor unions problematic. Ishin no Kai has called for tie-ups with Your Party and conservative DPJ members who are not affiliated with labor unions.
Within Ishin no Kai, Hashimoto expressed his intention to resign as party coleader. But the other party coleader Shintaro Ishihara and others persuaded Hashimoto to stay on. Confrontations between party members in Osaka, where Ishin no Kai is based, and party Diet members in Tokyo likely will continue.
In Your Party, there is discord between party leader Yoshimi Watanabe and Secretary General Kenji Eda. While Eda is eager for the party to take the leading role in opposition realignment, Watanabe is taking a cautious stance, saying, “Hasty realignment will fail, ending with a mere union of convenience.”
The political clout of Ichiro Ozawa, who had long played a central role in political realignments and currently serves as the leader of the People’s Life Party, has significantly waned. Mizuho Fukushima, who led the Social Democratic Party for a decade, has stepped down as party leader.
Political parties are meant to grasp issues both at home and abroad and carry out prescriptive policy measures to address them. Parties should not easily ally or split just for politicians’ convenience, and will not be able to survive without public support.
For any new opposition party, it is essential for there to be a consensus among its members over such policy issues as the Constitution under a leader who can establish intraparty governance.
The next national election will held three years from now at the latest. Each opposition party should start from realistic and steady policy discussions rather than insubstantial talks on realignment.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 30, 2013)