National / Politics

Constitutional scholar Kobayashi announces plan for anti-Abe party, Upper House bid

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Noted constitutional scholar Setsu Kobayashi announced Monday he will run in the Upper House election in July to stop what he called the “uncontrollable” government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

During a news conference in Tokyo, the Keio University professor emeritus said he was inspired by U.S. presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders.

Kobayashi, known for his vocal criticism of the divisive security laws that took effect in March, called his unorthodox candidacy a dig at establishment politics plagued by the heavy-handed ruling coalition and the unreliable opposition camp.

Kobayashi, 67, said he will not be fighting alone. He said he will form a new political organization called Kokumin Ikari no Koe (Angry Voice of the Citizens) to field at least 10 candidates, including himself, for the election under the proportional representation system.

“We’ve decided to fight this election to bring down the Abe administration,” Kobayashi told the packed news conference. He accused Abe of pushing through “unconstitutional” security laws, undermining press freedoms and stubbornly pursuing his “unsuccessful” Abenomics economic policy.

Separately, in a reference to Sanders and his fight against “the 1 percent demographic of the rich,” Kobayashi said in a statement that he will “emulate Sanders’ passion and appeal to young voters” so he can “realize politics that prioritize the needs of the 99 percent.”

Kobayashi was one of three scholars invited to participate in an Upper House panel on the Constitution in June last year. Each member concluded that the security laws contradicted the nation’s highest law.

Kokumin Ikari no Koe, he said, will espouse policies to scrap the security laws, restore freedom of speech, postpone the second stage of the consumption tax hike and halt the pursuit of nuclear power.

Kobayashi said his anger — as suggested by the name of the organization he aims to found — is not only directed at the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, but also at the opposition, mainly the Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party.

The opposition parties are joining hands to field united candidates in single-member constituencies to maximize the chance of scrapping the security laws.

However, their tie-up efforts, despite Kobayashi’s advocacy in recent months, have not extended to the proportional representation system, the professor said, which “makes the victory of the ruling coalition definite.”

In soliciting applications from prospective candidates, Kobayashi said he and his supporters will utilize the Internet. Emulating Sanders, he also said he will collect nomination deposits needed for their candidacy through crowd-funding.

However, should he fail to field 10 candidates, the minimum needed for a political organization to launch campaign activities including speeches, the use of loudspeaker trucks and the distribution of flyers, Kobayashi said he will abandon his political aspirations for good.

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