Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies cater to big business at the expense of the people and will only widen the wealth disparity between rich and poor, Seikatsu no To (People’s Life Party) President Ichiro Ozawa said in a recent interview.
“You need to prepare a safety net (to save the weak). Otherwise, you don’t need politics,” Ozawa told The Japan Times and other media outlets in a joint interview Wednesday in Tokyo.
“We have (policy) ideas antithetical to Abe’s. We want to appeal to (voters) with those policies,” he said.
Ozawa accused the administration of trying to deregulate employment rules and thereby increase the ranks of nonregular workers, an idea proposed by a government panel of experts. Ozawa said his party opposes this because it would only worsen working conditions.
Seikatsu no To also advocates abolishing all nuclear plants, putting on hold the planned hikes in the unpopular consumption tax and not participating in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks — all three positions contrary to that of Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Japan has seen no major power shortages even though only two of the nation’s 50 workable nuclear reactors are operating amid the nationwide halt due to the 2011 Fukushima catastrophe and subsequent overhaul of safety regulations, Ozawa pointed out.
“Nothing has happened, right? Japan can go without nuclear power plants,” he said.
Taking a stand against atomic power, hikes in the sales tax and joining the TPP would seem to be a populist way to appeal to voters.
But media polls show only a small segment support Seikatsu no To. According to NHK surveys, the support rate for Ozawa’s party was 0.1 percent in June, a drop from 0.5 percent in January.
“That’s the way it is,” a relaxed Ozawa, himself a Lower House member, said when asked about the public support rate.
Many people are starting to realize Abe’s economic policies are not benefiting ordinary people, in particular those in rural areas, Ozawa argued.
Abe’s advocacy of aggressive credit-easing by the Bank of Japan helped push down the yen’s value, but that only benefits major export-driven companies, he said.
“For ordinary people, the yen’s depreciation only means trouble, because it pushes up their cost of living,” Ozawa said. The cheaper currency “only helps export companies such as automakers and electronics companies.”
Seikatsu no To currently has seven Lower House members and eight Upper House members. For the July 21 election, it is fielding 11 candidates.
Last November, the veteran Ozawa bolted from the then-ruling, and divided, Democratic Party of Japan and formed Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan) with Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada.
But the single-issue party, which was hastily formed in the days before the December Lower House election to oppose nuclear power, suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of voters and eventually disbanded, leading Ozawa and his lawmaker allies to form Seikatsu no To later that month. His teaming up with Kada was seen by many as a marriage of convenience for the election.
In a political career that started in 1969, Ozawa has often served as a key player in the realignment of political forces, particularly after he bolted from the LDP in the 1990s.
After the Upper House election, some lawmakers may leave their parties and create new forces against the LDP, Ozawa predicted.
Asked if he will try to engineer such a realignment of parties, Ozawa just said the heads of the largest group, not him, should lead such a movement.
“People wish to see something other than the LDP,” Ozawa said.