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The Dippy Opposition

By Michael Penn

SNA (Tokyo) — Well, they’ve done it again. Just when you see glimmers of hope that Japan’s opposition parties might just be getting their acts together, they go and show you once again just how incompetent they really are.

The merger of the Democratic Party of Japan and the Japan Innovation Party has pretty much been assured since last September. The manner in which the ruling coalition steamrolled the security legislation through the Diet and the parting of ways between the Toru Hashimoto and Yorihisa Matsuno wings of the JIP made that outcome all but inevitable. They had a lot of time to execute the merger properly.

Why is it, then, that now that the merger is upon us it seems such a hasty and ill-considered affair? The answer, of course, is very poor leadership. The individual who must take the greatest share of blame for this state of affairs, since he is the man at the top, is DPJ President Katsuya Okada.

Okada Dippy

DPJ President Katsuya Okada

The SNA was asking as far back as July 2014 whether the DPJ was really worth trying to save. We later came to the basic conclusion, by November 2014, that “there’s a very strong chance that the Democratic Party of Japan will reconsolidate itself as the only viable alternative to the Liberal Democratic Party.” As we wrote at that time: “It isn’t, of course, that the DPJ has really impressed with its performance, but more a matter that all of the possible opposition challengers to the DPJ are falling by the wayside.”

“Falling by the wayside” is certainly an apt description for the condition of Yorihisa Matsuno’s Japan Innovation Party. Although not really due to any major fault of Matsuno personally, his party now registers virtually no support in public opinion polls and, if left to its own devices, is obviously heading to elimination in the next set of elections. Merger with the DPJ is thus a necessity for the JIP; they are in a desperate fight for their political survival.

It’s all the more amazing, therefore, that it seems that Yorihisa Matsuno won more of his points than did Katsuya Okada in the negotiations between the two party heads. Okada should have been the one in the much stronger position.

Okada did prevail on the one major issue of not being forced to legally dissolve the DPJ in order to create the new, merged political party.

Matsuno, however, prevailed on the matter of changing the party name. Not only that, but the name selected, Minshinto, was much closer to Matsuno’s preferences than to Okada’s. And the tentative English version of the party name—Democratic Innovation Party—suggests a 50/50 compromise on the new organization’s international identity.

Too bad, then, that the esteemed leaders of the two opposition parties failed to think through their choice of names a little more carefully. Not only does “Democratic Innovation” possess a not very wholesome or trustworthy ring to it in English, but it also leaves Japan’s main opposition party represented by the abbreviation “DIP”—as in dipsticks, dippy, and a bunch of dips.

Not only does “Democratic Innovation” possess a not very wholesome or trustworthy ring to it in English, but it also leaves Japan’s main opposition party represented by the abbreviation “DIP”—as in dipsticks, dippy, and a bunch of dips.

With all of the resources of Japan’s first- and third-largest opposition parties, no one bothered to run the new name past a few native speakers of English who possess a touch of political savvy? We all know the answer: Of course they didn’t.

There is still time for this bunch of dips to recognize their careless mistake and to render their new English name according to its more direct translation from Japanese, which would be “Democratic Progressive Party.” That would be a dignified and appropriate name, even if it seems a bit of an imitation from Japan’s former colony, Taiwan.

The “Japan Innovation Party” wasn’t a bad English name for its limited purposes in the Hashimoto-Matsuno era, but the innovative action that need be taken now is to immediately drop “Innovation” from the new, merged opposition party’s name.

Update on March 18

The opposition party leaders apparently heard our criticism and on March 18 announced that the new party name would in fact be “The Democratic Party” (DP).

Michael Penn is the President of the Shingetsu News Agency.

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