A roundup of the most significant news stories from Japan reported on January 7, 2019.
Host Michael Penn interviews Rob Fahey about the prospects for and the challenges ahead of the Japanese opposition parties, led by the Democratic Party.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s rather bizarre decision to call an early general election at a juncture that is distinctly unfavorable to his personal interests has set analysts ablaze, wondering how many seats the LDP-Komeito coalition can lose before Abe’s gambit would be judged a political failure.
Keiichiro Asao is among the most urbane and accessible of Japanese party leaders, and so he is in many ways a man that you want to root for. But in the nearly six months since he took over the leadership role of Your Party he has produced little prospect of a bright future for the organization.
There are many reasons for the hapless condition that the Japanese political opposition has fallen into, but one of the biggest factors surrounds the state and ambitions of the largest remaining opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan. The question, put simply, is whether or not the DPJ should focus on trying rebuild itself into a party that may one day govern the nation again, or if it has fallen so low in public esteem that its lawmakers would better advised to jump ship and to start afresh with a new political party.
Rarely has a political party been created that so looks forward to its own destruction. More commonly the birth of a new political party is attended by hopes that one day, with hard work and perseverance, it may capture a majority and govern the nation. But in the case of the Unity Party, inaugural leader Kenji Eda has made it surprising clear that he expects his new party to have long met its demise even before its first general election.
This should be the best of times for the New Komeito Party. Somehow they remained loyal partners of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) even after the crushing electoral defeat of August 2009, and they patiently weathered more than three years on the opposition benches while the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) mismanaged the nation. By rights, the last two national elections should be judged a triumph in which this party performed well and its ally came to dominate the government ranks.
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.
There’s one thing that all of Japan’s significant, existing opposition parties seem to agree upon; and that’s that none of them have any hope of overthrowing Liberal Democratic Party rule on their own in the presumed double elections of July 2016. They must combine their forces in some new manner in order to present a credible alternative that people might actually vote for.
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.