Tough road ahead for the DPJ

The Democratic Party of Japan, which suffered a severe setback in the Dec. 16 Lower House election, on Feb. 24 held a party convention aimed at laying the foundation for its resuscitation. Although it adopted a party platform and a seven-point declaration, it is hard to see how the No. 1 opposition party will gather the momentum needed for a competitive revival.

DPJ chief Mr. Banri Kaieda and other party leaders must make strenuous efforts to unify the party and put it in fighting mode to prepare for the Upper House election this summer.

As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe does not seem to be intent on strengthening the nation’s social policy, the DPJ must show people that it is committed to stabilizing people’s lives while pointing out the shortfalls of policies pushed by the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito.

The newly adopted DPJ platform declares that the DPJ is a party for ordinary citizens, taxpayers, consumers and workers. It includes calls for building a convivial society in which each person is respected and can pursue their own life as they choose, and for creating “new public commons” in which local governments, schools, nongovernment organizations, local communities and individual citizens cooperate to promote public interests.

The seven-point declaration includes a statement that the DPJ is a party of reform that will strive to carry out its ideas.

It is imperative for the party leadership, DPJ lawmakers and rank-and-file members to understand well the ideas expressed in the party platform and deeply consider what policy measures must be developed to put the ideas into reality. They should remember that the party platform is not a mere document.

Although the DPJ is largely supported by big labor unions belonging to the Japanese Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), it should not forget to try to enhance the conditions of workers at small and medium-size enterprises and irregular workers who do not belong to powerful unions.

As for Japan’s Constitution, the platform says the party will strive to translate into realty its basic principles of sovereignty residing with the people, respect for basic human rights and pacifism. It also says that the party, together with ordinary people, will consider a future-oriented constitution — a phrase that could be interpreted as an attempt to appease elements within the party inclined toward revising the Constitution.

Because the LDP calls for a constitutional revision that could pave the way for unlimited activities overseas by the Japanese military and limit basic human rights on some occasions, the DPJ should clearly state that it will oppose the LDP’s move. Otherwise it will not be able to wage a good fight against the LDP in the coming Upper House election.

A recent Kyodo News poll shows that the DPJ has an approval rating of only 6 percent against the LDP’s 46.9 percent. The DPJ must make strenuous efforts to ascertain people’s needs and to work out policies that will address them.