Racism has always been an essential element in the struggle over US military bases in Okinawa, but now it has emerged into the mainstream media.
Host Michael Penn interviews Rob Fahey about the prospects for and the challenges ahead of the Japanese opposition parties, led by the Democratic Party.
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto was still near the peak of his popularity when he announced in September 2012 that he would be moving into national politics. Simply by putting out the call, enough lawmakers gathered to his banner to establish a new political party meant to represent the Osaka Restoration Association’s interests at the national level. Today, in an echo from three years ago, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto is once again signalling his intention to launch a new political party meant to represent the Osaka Restoration Association’s interests at the national level.
With the passage into law on July 28 of the House of Councillors electoral district reform bill, there has been some amelioration of the wide disparity in the weight of individual votes. Nevertheless, many believe that the reforms of the new law as well are far too timid. It will still remain the case that one person’s vote in some prefectures will have the weight of almost three peoples’ votes in other prefectures.
The political consequences of Toru Hashimoto’s failure to convince the Osakans to vote in favour of his unification plan might reach beyond the borders of his constituency. In the aftermath of the referendum it became clear that not only Hashimoto’s own political career was tied to the result.
Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture, is the 14th largest city in Japan by population, and it has a distinguished history. There is evidence of civilized habitation here going back the 5th century; and Sakai played a notable role as a mercantile hub since medieval times. Sakai was the hometown of Sen no Rikyu, the renowned master of the Japanese tea ceremony. In the 16th century Sakai produced the bulk of Japan’s firearms, and when the warlord Nobunaga Oda decided that he needed to control Sakai and its firearms directly, and attempted to squelch the city’s independence, the locals rebelled.
What follows is a party-by-party survey of what these elections mean for the twelve largest political parties in Japan. The ruling party’s 65-seat pick up was not all that it could have hoped for in light of the sky-high approval ratings of the Abe Cabinet, but it was definitely good enough to provide the basis of a stable government for the next three years.
The fact that the Liberal Democratic Party avenged its defeat of four years ago and recaptured power in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly was virtually a given in light of the Abe administration’s sky-high popularity and general momentum in the first half of 2013. But there were some notable subplots that revealed truths about the opposition parties, giving us a window into what to expect in next month’s House of Councillors elections.
Beyond Toru Hashimoto personally, the contentious comments made by the young Osaka mayor and Japan Restoration Party co-leader are having a powerful effect on the Japanese political world. To take just one poll, the Nihon Keizai Shinbun found that the 9% who had been planning to vote for this political party in the July House of Councillors election before Hashimoto and Ishihara’s comments on comfort women and prostitution has now dropped to only 3%.