Introducing Minshin To, Japan’s new main opposition force


Staff Writer

The nation’s new main opposition force will be named Minshin To, its lawmakers said Monday. This translates as “Democratic Innovation Party,” although the English version is tentative at this stage.

The party will be formed on March 27 through the merger of the center-left Democratic Party of Japan and Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), the largest and third-largest opposition units, respectively.

The two parties picked the name from a short list of Minshin To and Rikken Minshu To. The latter can be translated as “Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.”

They conducted two surveys of voter preferences, and Minshin To was the winner in each case, DPJ President Katsuya Okada told reporters.

“I am inclined to comply with the surveys’ findings,” Okada said.

Okada had said he personally preferred Rikken Minshu To, which retains a reference to the DPJ’s Japanese name, Minshu To. But Ishin no To members demanded a fresh start to shake off the tainted image of the DPJ, which made a series of political blunders while in power from 2009 through 2012.

Executives from both parties hope to secure fresh support from voters through the revamped image and name.

It is unclear whether this will happen, as a number of polls have suggested that voters expect little from the DPJ-Ishin merger.

One conducted by NHK last month put the support rate for the DPJ at 9.6 percent, lagging far behind the 37.6 percent commanded by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Both DPJ and Ishin executives have been concerned that they could suffer a crashing defeat in the upcoming Upper House election without serious party reforms. Okada’s quick about-face appears to underline this sense of crisis.

When it came to picking a name, the two parties did individual research. The DPJ’s survey found 24 percent of 2,000 respondents preferred Minshin To, while 18.7 percent liked Rikken Minshu To. In the poll by Ishin, the ratios were 25.9 percent and 20.9 percent respectively, Okada said.

Meanwhile, the kanji for Minshin To are identical to those of the abbreviated name of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party, which won landslide victories in elections in January.

Facing reporters Monday, Okada noted that Minshin To is a formal name, not an abbreviated name like that of Taiwan’s DPP.

The conservative, right-leaning daily Sankei Shimbun earlier reported an unnamed lawmaker from Taiwan’s ruling party as expressing hope that the new party would not be named Minshin To — because it could damage the DPP’s public image.