AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

A tide in the affairs of men

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, April 6, 2010

We are the forces calling for a change of government. To that extent, we are the same as the DPJ. But we’re thinking beyond that. We stand for a change of government and political realignment. Without political realignment, it will be impossible to correct the structural deformities in the way in which the Japanese state is operated.
– Watanabe Yoshimi, before last year’s general election

What the people want to see is a true reform party, not additional forces supporting Mr. Ozawa or tax increases.
– Nakagawa Hidenao of the LDP’s reform faction

IT’S BEEN AS PLAIN as the nose on an elephant’s face since the Koizumi administration that the Japanese people want exactly what Nakagawa Hidenao says they want—a true reform party. They’ve demonstrated time and again that they will accept no substitutes, but too many of the country’s politicos would rather cut class than learn the lesson. The Democratic Party of Japan are just the latest in a long and sorry line to think they could get away with ignoring the obvious.

Attention is increasingly focusing on Your Party, led by Watanabe Yoshimi and Eda Kenji, as the only group that seems to be paying attention. The latest Kyodo poll released at the beginning of the week shows they’ve clearly established themselves in public opinion as the third-leading party in Japan, despite being only eight months old. Their support figures climbed to 9.6% from 4.0% in the space of a month, and all they had to do was act naturally. That’s more than half the percentage-point total of the LDP, which ranked at the 18% level. They had planned to sponsor only 10 candidates in this summer’s upper house election, but now could officially back as many as 30.

They’re also starting to gain traction in local government. The city of Zushi in Kanagawa, a Tokyo-Yokohama bedroom community with a population of roughly 50,000, held a city council election on 28 March. Your Party sponsored three candidates for the 20-seat chamber, and all three were elected. Two of their candidates ranked first and second in total votes with a margin far out in front of the rest of the pack. The three Your Party members won an aggregate of 5,500 votes, while the five candidates sponsored by the Democratic Party of Japan, now the national ruling party, could muster only 3,800 votes among them, and two of them lost. YP received 21.4% of the total vote, while the DPJ candidates got only 15%. Some Japanese pundits are calling it the Zushi no Ran, or Zushi Rebellion.

The results are significant because the city has a lot of independent voters, and in keeping with trends in other democracies worldwide, that is now the self-identification of roughly half of the Japanese electorate. One DPJ Diet member lamented to an Asahi reporter, “The independents totally deserted us.” Another factor is that the area is the political base of one of the party’s MPs in the lower house of the Diet, Asao Keiichiro, a proportional representative.

The party is starting to pick up new members in local government assemblies nationwide, a noteworthy trend because local elections will be conducted simultaneously around the country next year. Said YP Secretary-General Eda Kenji, “(The Zushi election) is an important indicator in terms of forecasting the upper house election. The results are encouraging.” Party head Watanabe Yoshimi says their goal this summer is to increase their upper house representation from the current single member to at least 10.

Number three…or number two?

Meanwhile, party member Yamauchi Ko’ichi writes on his Japanese-language blog that he objects to the mass media calling them a “third pole”, or third force:

“Since the Aso administration, the Liberal Democratic Party has reverted to its previous course of distributing pork and holding hands with the institutions of the bureaucracy. They’ve turned the rudder toward big government and greater regulation. (That’s the reason I left the party.)

“The DPJ’s strength originally comes from public employee unions and former Socialist Party members. It’s obvious from the start that they are left of center, and incline toward big government.

“No explanation is needed for the big government proclivities of the socialist parties, including the Communists and the Social Democrats.

“Looking at it that way, Your Party is now the only one championing a disassociation from the bureaucracy, a state/province system based on regional sovereignty, and anti-pork barrel politics.

“From the perspective of principles and policies, the political world is really composed of only two opposing poles, or two arguments. Those are Your Party versus all the other political parties. Big government, pork, and income distribution, as opposed to small government, anti-pork, and growth.

“In terms of the number of Diet seats or the support rates for individual parties, Your Party can be considered a “third pole”. But from the perspective of principles and policies, Your Party is the “second pole”.

*****
Mr. Watanabe, however, still uses the “third pole” expression. In an article in the April edition of Shincho 45 magazine, he writes that political realignment will start in earnest after the upper house election (echoing Watanabe Kozo—no relation—of the DPJ, quoted here last week). He adds:

The authentic political Big Bang will occur when Ozawa Ichiro breaks up the Democratic Party of Japan. The scenario for the shortest course is another lower house election following the upper house election to select a government and to create a new political order.

Of the DPJ, he says,

They made the mistake of thinking they could do anything they wanted if they took power, and that the voters would allow them to do whatever they wanted because they supported them in the election.

He cites the proverb from The Tale of the Heike, “Ogoru Heike ha hisashikarazu”, or arrogant behavior based on excessive pride in position or wealth will guarantee one’s downfall. Finally, he agrees with commentator Yayama Taro’s comparison of Hatoyama Yukio to Tokugawa Keiki, the 15th and last Shogun who ruled for less than a year and stepped down in the face of a rebellion.

The party’s goal for now, says Mr. Watanabe, is to be a part of a larger reform government in coalition with like-minded forces.

When Watanabe Yoshimi left the LDP for turning its back on reform and then launched Your Party, he was mocked by the wise lips in both the LDP and the DPJ. Some dubbed him the proverbial rat leaving the sinking ship. Those suffering from premature hubris in the DPJ dismissed him by saying he had cut himself out of the real action, now that they were going take control of the government.

They’re not the ones laughing any more. Your Party has always sailed on the tide of reform, but now the wind’s at their back. All they have to do is stay the course.

2 Responses to “A tide in the affairs of men”

  1. […] Ampontan posits this in his latest post… IT’S BEEN AS PLAIN as the nose on an elephant’s face since the Koizumi administration that the Japanese people want …a true reform party. They’ve demonstrated time and again that they will accept no substitutes, but too many of the country’s politicos would rather cut class than learn the lesson. The Democratic Party of Japan are just the latest in a long and sorry line to think they could get away with ignoring the obvious. Tags: DPJ, New Party, Reform Category: Politics  |  Comment (RSS)  |  Trackback […]

  2. It is definetly true!! Japan has been crying out for a totally reform party that will set things right and lead it out from its terrible crisis.

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