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Resurgent JCP has night to remember

Going toe-to-toe with Abe pays off as party doubles seats


Staff Writer

While the leaders of most of the opposition parties were grim-faced Sunday night, the Japanese Communist Party was celebrating after it more than doubled its seats in the Lower House.

The party now has 21 lawmakers in the chamber, up from eight before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Nov. 21 called a snap general election that his Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition easily won.

Following its usual practice, the JCP fielded a massive 315 candidates in the election.

JCP chief Kazuo Shii was quick to hail the victory of Seiken Akamine in the Okinawa No. 1 district, the party’s first single-seat constituency victory in 18 years.

The party was expecting to win even more seats via proportional representation, he told reporters in Tokyo.

The jump was widely credited to swing voters fed up with Abe’s economic policies, which critics say only benefit big business and the wealthy, as well as his security policies, particularly his Cabinet’s decision in July to lift the ban on collective self-defense and the passage of the state secrets law.

Some people may have voted for the JCP out of spite, given the dearth of viable alternatives, observers said. A similar trend was seen in 1996, when the party won 26 seats in the Lower House after voters became disillusioned with the Social Democratic Party’s decision to hop into bed with its perpetual nemesis, the LDP.

Among other opposition parties, the Democratic Party of Japan remained in limbo, failing to recover from its disappointing rookie debut in power from 2009 to 2012. Its tumultuous stint in office was hobbled by failed pledges and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear catastrophe.

Other parties, such as Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Your Party, once touted as “third force” groups ready to challenge the LDP, no longer exist. Nippon Ishin split in two earlier this year and Your Party disbanded in November.

Seeing the snap election as a chance to lure support from voters fed up with Abe’s rule, Shii repeatedly framed Sunday’s election as “a battle between the JCP and the LDP,” saying his party was prepared to stop “the LDP from going out of control.”

The JCP campaigned on a platform that was the polar opposite of the conservative LDP’s. Attacking Abe for widening the gap between rich and poor, it pledged to raise taxes on big corporations and the wealthy. It also vowed to abolish the second stage of the consumption tax hike, which will jack up the rate to 10 percent from 8 percent in spring 2017.

On security, the JCP pledged to withdraw the Abe Cabinet’s July decision to reinterpret the war-renouncing Constitution. It is also opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the massive free trade agreement being pursued by the United States, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim economies.

In the June 2013 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, the JCP more than doubled its seats to 17, up from eight. The party made similar gains in the Upper House election the following month, boosting its seats in the chamber to 11, up from six.

The most seats the JCP has ever won in a Lower House election was 39, in 1979. After that, around 2000, the party began struggling and held fewer than 10 seats in the chamber.

  • JimmyJM

    The JCP wants to abolish the second stage of the consumption tax hike. Japan’s debt is 240% of GDP. How would the JCP pay off that debt? They offer plans but are silent on how they would be carried out. I believe the 21 seats they gained (up from 8) is due largely to a backlash by voters to the ultra right wing and nationalist efforts of the LDP. I’m sure many non-Communist voters chose the JCP over the LDP and Komeito. Next to those two parties, only the JCP is as well organized. Other opposition parties are too disorganized to mount an effective opposition. But when it comes to the economy, the JCP is clueless.

    • Al_Martinez

      “How would the JCP pay off that debt?”

      Raising corporate taxes.

      • JimmyJM

        Which is a good way to raise the cost of living and further hobble the economy.

      • JSS00

        No, it doesn’t. Abe lowered the corporate tax, and cost of living is now higher.

      • JimmyJM

        Not at all. But remember, the consumption tax also is paid by corporations who increase the price of their products to pay it. (We are all, even communists, consumers). Raising the tax on corporations enough to pay off the national debt without taxing consumers in general, will drive some out of business, drive others out of the country (increasing unemployment), and cause those who want to stay in business to raise their prices even more. But that debt has to be paid.

  • Stuart M.

    Only the JCP took an anti-nuclear energy position in the campaign. Especially many Socialist Party members were disillusioned by their party’s backtracking on this issue. How would the JCP eliminate the national debt? By printing money, of course.

    • Only the JCP took an anti-nuclear energy position in the campaign.

      Not true. The JIP (Japan Innovation Party) did too. And they also did relatively well (#3 in total seats).

  • 151E

    They could do a lot better if they rebranded themselves as something other than “communist”. It’s almost as if they don’t want to win.

    • JimmyJM

      You’re right, they probably don’t want to win. If they did, they’d have to govern and they don’t know how to do that. Being in opposition is easy. Taking on the responsibility of governing is scary. Japanese Communists are, for the most part, intelligent but naive. Economics is not their strong suite. Being intelligent, they realize what would happen if they had to govern. They’d be given one chance, screw it up badly and be soundly defeated in the next election. That would be the end of communism in Japan.