Host Michael Penn interviews Rob Fahey about the prospects for and the challenges ahead of the Japanese opposition parties, led by the Democratic Party.
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.
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.
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.
Political donations have been a problem for Japanese politicians for a very long time. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already has lost three of his ministers due to alleged violations of the Political Funds Control Law after the reshuffle of his Cabinet in September last year, and suspicions are being raised about a fourth, Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura.
Since its foundation in August 2009, Yoshimi Watanabe’s Your Party has been a bit player, but usually an interesting one. What set Your Party apart from a host of many other short-lived outfits was its relatively clear policy identity. This was the party of free enterprise, neoliberal economics, deregulation, and limited, preferably decentralized, government.
For quite some time Yoshimi Watanabe’s Your Party has seemed like one of the less dysfunctional Japanese opposition parties. Larger opposition parties like the DPJ had lost any recognizable policy identity, whereas Your Party’s commitment to free market economics, deregulation, and decentralization was rather consistent. And, unlike the Social Democratic Party or Japan Communist Party, Your Party’s agenda was sufficiently mainstream and conservative that at least part of The Establishment, especially the business sector, could conceivably embrace them.
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.