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This Week in Japan (10.08.17)

SNA (Tokyo) — This Week in Japan is your source for news and information about politics and other happenings in this East Asian island country. This episode covers the Top Five stories of the first week of October 2017.

One. Another political party formed this week. This time it was the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the Yukio Edano-led group of liberal lawmakers from the collapsing Democratic Party who were clearly unwelcome to join the much more conservative Party of Hope. The new CDPJ had very little time to prepare for the general elections, but nevertheless gathered dozens of candidates eager that pro-Constitution and other liberal viewpoints not be eliminated from the National Diet.

Two. This week it became clear that Yuriko Koike’s Party of Hope would indeed form an alliance with the ideologically similar regional urban parties based in Osaka and Nagoya. If there was a surprise in this development, it was that the Osaka-based Japan Innovation Party, led by Governor Ichiro Matsui, finally agreed to work together with Governor Koike. Up until this point, Matsui had resisted any notion of federating with Koike’s forces, in spite of the fact that there was really very little to separate them in policy terms.

Three. Another aspect of the frantic realignment was the virtual disappearance of the Liberal Party. With only six national lawmakers, its impact was marginal in any case, but now there appeared to be a sharp division between party leader Ichiro Ozawa and the mostly liberal-left remainder of the party. Ozawa had apparently played a key role in bringing Yuriko Koike and Seiji Maehara together in a merger scheme that advanced the goals of the hard right, while cutting the liberal-left adrift. Little was confirmed about the internal situation of the Liberal Party, but it was officially sitting out the general election and was possibly moving toward disbandment.

Four. The breakup of the Democratic Party, which was seeing its conservative wing absorbed into the Party of Hope and its liberal wing forming the CDPJ, had the unforeseen consequence of heightening tensions within Rengo, the country’s largest labor union federation, which itself consisted of conservative and liberal components. Now it was being forced to show its hand as to where it really stood within national politics, and Rengo didn’t have a united answer. For this general election, Rengo avoided the decision by announcing that it would only support individual candidates, not parties, but after the elections it was clear that Rengo was heading for internal troubles that might even lead to its own breakup.

Five. The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, an event that a casual observer might believe would be celebrated in Japan as the world’s only atomic bombed country. In fact, the Abe government was so displeased that they couldn’t even manage a half-hearted congratulations to the organization. This was because the Abe government in fact strongly supported the United States both in possessing nuclear weapons and in threatening to use them, if necessary, against North Korea. So while the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki warmly welcomed news of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Abe government reacted with an icy silence.

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