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More Disarray in the Democratic Party of Japan

Okawara Poster

Masako Okawara Campaign Poster (SNA)

SNA (Tokyo) — The comedy of errors that is today’s Democratic Party of Japan never fails to — or rather always does — disappoint. Even as we are entering the official campaigning period ahead of the House of Councillors elections that may quite possibly be the last national elections for the next three years, the DPJ demonstrates once again that if by some miracle they were to suddenly return to power, they would be no more united nor coherent than they were the first time around.

As is often the case with these people, the fiasco began with what was actually a rather good idea. When the DPJ executives took a hard look at the public opinion polls and the alarming results of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections they realized that their election strategy was too optimistic and that they needed to scale back the number of DPJ candidates in order achieve the best results possible in terms of the capture of Diet seats.

In particular, they eyed the Tokyo electoral district in which a scrum of 20 candidates are competing for 5 open seats.

Six years ago the DPJ grabbed 2 of those 5 seats and so it has two incumbents, Masako Okawara and Kan Suzuki, desperately attempting to defend themselves and win reelection.

But with party support rates in the single digits, that clearly isn’t going to happen. Even worse, the DPJ executives understand that if their small pool of loyal voters split between the two incumbent candidates, then there exists the serious possibility that both will be defeated and that the DPJ would be humiliated by gaining zero seats in Tokyo, in spite of being the largest opposition party. It was quite logical and appropriate, therefore, for the DPJ executives to decide to run only one candidate in Tokyo who would certainly be able to win rather than running two candidates with no hope of both winning and, in fact, possibly coming up entirely empty-handed.

But, once again, the DPJ failed miserably at the point of execution.

In the first place, the decision to run only one candidate came way too late in the process. The DPJ executives asked Masako Okawara to withdraw from the race only two days before the official campaign period began and after, in fact, the sound trucks promoting her candidacy could be seen prowling Tokyo streets.

Presumably they asked Okawara and not Suzuki to withdraw based on party seniority, but the process by which the axe fell on her and not him seems to have been rather opaque. Since the decision happened suddenly and at the last minute, not only was Okawara herself stunned, but her friends among the DPJ lawmakers were also alienated.

In the event, Masako Okawara announced that even though she had been stripped of her endorsement by the DPJ, she was nevertheless going to run to defend her seat, now as an independent candidate.

One result is that the DPJ executives gained nothing by reducing their number of candidates from 2 to only 1 because the DPJ vote was probably still going to be divided between Okawara and Suzuki, leading to the same danger of mutual defeat that they had intended to avoid.

But then the situation got several degrees worse when former Prime Minister Naoto Kan also rebelled against the current DPJ executives. Kan announced on July 3 on his blog, “I have been supporting Okawara because of her clear stance in support of a ‘zero nuclear’ policy for Japan, and in spite of the fact that her endorsement has been taken away by the DPJ, I intend to support Okawara’s candidacy with all of my might.”

So once again the weakness of the leadership and the divisions on policy among the DPJ lawmakers are right out there on full public display.

The best that DPJ Secretary-General Goshi Hosono could do was to growl in response to reporters’ questions, “Mr. Kan is a former party leader and he should behave in accordance with that status. He needs to shut up for a while.”

On Election Day the Democratic Party of Japan will be humiliated again as incumbent candidates drop like flies. It is a fate that is fully deserved due to their ongoing incompetence and the unwillingness of Banri Kaieda to take the bull by the horns and do what needed to be done at the beginning of this year: To split the party by ejecting the LDP clones like Noda, Maehara, and the rest of their conservative gang, and to begin the rebuilding process as a new progressive political party with a degree of ideological consistency and a fighting spirit.