Opposition party in Japan faces gloomy election prospects

By Wen Feng
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, September 27, 2017
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The Democratic Party (Japan), headed by newly-elected leader Seiji Maehara, was expected to make a big move in the country's general election this fall after announcing a string of new appointments.

Seiji Maehara (C) greets party members after being selected as the new leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in Tokyo, Japan, on Sept. 1, 2017. Japan's former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara was selected by the main opposition DPJ on Friday as its new leader, seeing off his rival Yukio Edano, a political heavyweight who previously served as chief cabinet secretary when the party was in power. [Photo/Xinhua] 

According to the newspaper Asahi Shimbun, Maehara, former foreign minister, appointed a number of heavyweights, including Shiori Yamao, Yukio Edano, Atsushi Oshima and Akira Nagatsuma, as intra-party executives to enhance party solidarity.

However, within less than half a month, Yamao, a promising female political star, was accused of an extramarital affair that led her to step down and leave the party.

Her resignation, regarded as the tip of the iceberg of loosening control inside the party, has inflicted a heavy blow to its credibility just when it needs to convince the public otherwise for the upcoming election.

Maehara has yet to carry out any concrete and feasible actions to mitigate the negative impact of the scandal, which may indicate critical intra-party divergence among the different forces involved.

It was imperative for the Democratic Party (DP) to be united under strong leadership to work out a political agenda able to meet voter expectations; that, however, is just what it has failed to do.

On the contrary, the rightwing, ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has been obsessed in decades with amendment of the country's "Peace Constitution" adopted after WWII. Although the amendment in deliberation worries the rest of East Asia and threatens peaceful development of the region, Japanese citizens seem impressed by the party's ability to constantly come up with consistent policies and succinct goals.

The monologue of the Liberal Democratic Party in the Japanese political arena has lasted for most of the postwar era. There were only a few years, especially after the bursting of the economic bubbles in the 1990s, when the LDP had to establish coalitions with other parties to tackle with the crises. However, in recent years, it has regained absolute ruling power.

Even when the Democratic Party of Japan (DP's predecessor) ruled the country from 2009 to 2012, it did not bring about any fundamental change in the absolute power base of the LDP. So, if DP still remains an opposition party, it would risk losing ground and even becoming peripheral in the Japanese politics.

What it needs to do is joining hands with other left-wing parties, such as the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), otherwise, this side of the political spectrum may lose its voice, being drowned out by conservative right-wing prevalence.

At the end of last month, JCP Chairman Kazuo Shii reiterated it was ready for better cooperation with the Democratic Party.

However, despite the prospect of building a left-wing, multi-party coalition to counteract and balance the overwhelming LDP influence, the Democratic Party is split into pro and con camps.

However, no matter how different the parties are, Maehara and Edano, the two DP leaders who used to express anti-China sentiments, cannot lay out a political outline different from their strong rival.

At the same time, Maehara, in particular, has been a consistent supporter of moves to amend the Peace Constitution.

In other words, the Democratic Party may not be attractive to the constituencies as their policies almost have nothing that looks new and different compared to to their formidable competitor.

This is a worry, as, if it does badly in the forthcoming election, there could be no force for a time able to rein in the right-wing political power.

That will allow Shinzo Abe's cabinet to forge ahead with the amendment, enabling it to meddle in East Asian affairs while imploring for help from their U.S. counterparts.

The deterioration of the Japanese political system may bring substantial uncertainties to the peace and stability of the East Asia in the long run.

The author is the PhD from the History School of the Nanjing University.

The article was translated by Wu Jin. Its original version was published in Chinese.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors only, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

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