The so-called third-pole opposition forces gained a slight foothold in the Dec. 16 Lower House election, although the Liberal Democratic Party and its ally Komeito control more than two-thirds of the Lower House seats.
The third-pole forces need to develop a strategy for coping with the powerful ruling LDP-Komeito coalition and decide what policy programs to present in the coming Upper House election in order to distinguish themselves from it.
In the Dec. 16 election, the Japan Restoration Party won 54 seats, Your Party 18, and Nihon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan), nine. Together, they got more seats than the No. 1 opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which won 57 seats.
It appears that the Japan Restoration Party is experiencing difficulty in setting policy direction since it is headed by two leaders who have differing political ideologies — former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto.
Nihon Mirai, meanwhile, split in two about a month after its formation. Eight Lower House members — former DPJ chief Ichiro Ozawa and those close to him — left the party and formed Seikatsu no To (Lifestyle Party). The split-up is regrettable as the party had worthy goals. Nihon Mirai had called for ending Japan’s nuclear power generation within 10 years and presented a fairly concrete timeline for doing so. It gained some 3.42 million votes in proportionally represented multiseat constituencies. If the votes received in single-seat constituencies are added, it received some 6.4 million votes. Clearly the party received support from people who wanted a feasible policy to end Japan’s reliance on nuclear power generation in the wake of the catastrophe at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which has devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
The blame for the party’s breakup rests squarely on the shoulders of Nihon Mirai head Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada and Mr. Ozawa, who failed to compromise and unite for the sake of pushing the party line. Mr. Ozawa may face additional criticism since Lifestyle Party will receive most of some ¥800 million in government subsidies for political parties that Nihon Mirai was expected to receive.
As for the Japan Restoration Party, it appears to have two headquarters: one in Tokyo, where Mr. Ishihara lives, and the other in Osaka, where Mr. Hashimoto is based. The party says it will deal with the LDP-Komeito coalition on a case by case basis, judging each policy of the coalition. As Mr. Ishihara appears inclined toward a highly hawkish stance on the Constitution and defense policy, he may try to push the LDP-Komeito coalition further right.
Your Party doubled its strength in the Lower House. The main tenet of Your Party and the Japan Restoration Party appears to be neoliberal market-fundamentalism. They also call for revising the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, which played a critical role in Japan’s effort to rebuild its reputation as a peaceful nation in the postwar period. Voters must strictly scrutinize their policies and decide whether they will really enhance their well-being.