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Democratic Party Opts to Rebuild

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 December 2017.

One. The Democratic Party under its leader Kohei Otsuka began to more clearly signal that they were no longer seriously considering disbanding and dividing lawmakers between the conservative Party of Hope and the progressive Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. Instead, they would attempt to revive their fortunes as a centrist political party, perhaps under a new name in 2018. The net result of former leader Seiji Maehara’s dramatic actions in late September, therefore, was to split the former Democratic Party into three smaller, more ideologically coherent political parties, with the progressive element gathering the largest degree of public support.

Two. Plans for the abdication of Emperor Akihito and the accession to the throne of Crown Prince Naruhito took more definite shape as the end of April and beginning of May 2019 was set as the timing for the leadership change. There was also the suggestion that the accession would be accompanied by a ten-day long national holiday.

Three. The Abe government and its allies began to publicly float the idea that new nuclear power plants would have to be constructed in order to meet the nation’s future energy demands. The most open suggestion in this regard came from Japan Business Federation Chairman Sadayuki Sakakibara, a close Abe ally. In the post-Fukushima Disaster era, the debate had previously been about restarting existing reactors. The Abe government was now reaching for something much more.

Four. The decision by US President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city in advance of any peace settlement with the Palestinians was widely criticized and condemned around the world. However, in line with the Abe administration’s apparent policy never to criticize anything that Donald Trump does in order to flatter and please him, they allowed decades of Japanese policy on the Arab-Israeli Conflict to be contradicted without a single word of protest.

Five. The Japan Communist Party held a meeting of its central committee to assess the recent general elections and to map out its policies going forward. Key decisions included a reaffirmation of electoral cooperation with like-minded parties, the most important of which is the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. They also decided to strengthen outreach to a younger generation by fully digitizing the party newspaper, Akahata, and investing more resources in social media.

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