DPJ can’t decide where grass is greener

The Democratic Party of Japan, only six months old, continues to experience growing pains as political forces pull it in two directions.

But while the ruling and opposition camps beckon, the DPJ is taking its time before deciding on a course of action. Time, however, may not be on its side. The second-largest opposition party needs to swiftly form a solid strategy if it intends to have its policy proposals better reflected in government policies, political analysts say.

If the DPJ does not act quickly, it may be unable to stem voters’ falling interest ahead of a key election for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly this July and the Upper House election in July 1998. So what is the party — currently with 52 seats in the Lower House and 15 in the Upper House — expected to do Mar. 22 at its first convention?

Stand still.

The question over whether it should join the ruling Liberal Democratic Party-led alliance is so sensitive that members are expected to refrain from going into detail on a strategy. Instead, the party is expected to follow a seemingly oxymoronic suggestion from DPJ joint leader Yukio Hatoyama, agreeing to remain in opposition and cooperate with the government on a case-by-case basis — “for the time being.” Hatoyama has not defined “for the time being.”

While Hatoyama straddles a fence, fellow leader Naoto Kan and his aides seem to be leaning toward joining the ruling camp to achieve the DPJ’s policy goals, according to DPJ sources. Hatoyama said after the party’s general meeting that it is impossible for members to form a consensus on the future direction of the party.