In an age of increasing disenchantment with political parties, both among voters and electoral candidates, there is one group whose level of support is still growing.
The Rojin Party (Old People’s Party) is not a real political party as such, but an online body whose supporters are united by their anger over current political events.
Having been launched in April by writer and psychiatrist Shigeru Horiuchi, the group has thus far attracted more than 200,000 visitors to its Web site.
Horiuchi is better known by his alias, Nada y Nada, a Spanish phrase meaning “nothing is nothing.”
On the Rojin Party’s Web site, members engage in heated debate over a wide array of issues, ranging from education to the possible dispatch of Self-Defense Forces units to Iraq.
Nada said that anyone can be a party member.
The group was launched after Nada, now 74, visited a clinic near his home in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, and was charged a higher fee than usual.
As part of its National Health Insurance reform drive, the government began charging people aged 70 and older 10 percent of their medical fees in October 2002.
Moreover, those aged 70 or older in higher income brackets must now pay 20 percent of their fees.
The clinic incident ignited Nada’s long-held frustration with Japanese politics, which he said has grown apart from the public’s needs. He vented his spleen on his Web site.
“Don’t you think we, old people, are being made fun of by politicians?” Nada wrote. He maintains that the increase in medical charges has forced the elderly, most of whom have no source of income other than their pension, to cut back on expenses.
He warns that things will get even more serious if the government introduces an inflation target. This would only help boost prices, while the savings of the elderly are likely to shrink in an era of near-zero interest rates.
“They always rush to seemingly easy jobs like cutting pensions and hiking medical charges, leaving aside all those big tasks such as the privatization of road corporations,” Nada snapped.
On his Web site, he called on seniors to join forces to oust unsympathetic politicians in order to prevent “further humiliation.”
He was soon flooded with responses, not only from seniors but from people as young as teenagers who said they wanted to join Nada’s party.
“Politicians, both at local and national levels, talk about how this nation should be, but almost all their ideals were born out of money politics and power struggles,” wrote a 33-year-old. “Who has made Japan like this? I want to change this situation even though it would be little by little.”
Another wrote, “I didn’t like politics and politicians, but I can no longer bear the thought that our country and our children and grandchildren would continue being controlled by the things I hate.”
Nada said he also receives letters and faxes from people who say they do not use the Internet but want to join the Rojin Party.
“So many people are worried about future and thinking that things should not be this way,” Nada said.
The Rojin Party is currently focused on the next general election. Its goal is to oust the Liberal Democratic Party from power by voting for the largest opposition force, the Democratic Party of Japan.
“We want to prove that politicians can’t keep their seats if they do not listen to the voices of voters,” Nada said.
Some earnest members have urged Nada to turn the Rojin Party into a real political party, but Nada has decided there is a merit in remaining virtual.
“If we try to send our representatives to the Diet, we could end up in a marginalized minority,” Nada said. “What is important is to have the awareness that we are the ones who are in control of politics.”