National / Politics

Edano's David goes after Abe's 'arrogant' Goliath in Diet

by Linda Sieg and Ami Miyazaki

Reuters

The leader of the small Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, which exceeded expectations in October’s snap poll, now hopes that by offering clear policy alternatives he can oust Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition in the next election.

One key to achieving that ambitious goal, said party founder Yukio Edano, is an economic platform that puts more weight on redistributing wealth, including by raising corporate taxes to push firms to use their cash reserves to raise wages.

“Unless we have reasonable redistribution to achieve growth, domestic demand will not expand,” Edano, 53, said in an interview.

“That is a clear difference from the LDP,” he said, referring to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The CDP was formed less than three weeks before the Oct. 22 election, after the leader of the then-main opposition force, the Democratic Party, decided not to field candidates and encouraged them to run on the slate of Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike’s novice conservative party.

It grabbed the top opposition spot in the Lower House poll, although its 54 seats are dwarfed by the 283 won by Abe’s conservative LDP.

“Since we are the biggest opposition party, we must aim at a change in government in the next election, or else democracy is not functioning,” said Edano, who admitted he was surprised by his party’s success.

“That is our responsibility.”

The next general election must be held by October 2021.

The CDP opposes Abe’s proposal to revise Article 9 of the postwar Constitution, which bans Japan from maintaining “war potential” but has been interpreted to allow armed forces exclusively for self-defense, and unlike the more authoritarian LDP, stresses civil rights rather than obligations to the state.

The party appears to have a long way to go, given a support level of 7.9 percent against 38.1 percent for the LDP in a survey by NHK this week.

Edano’s fighting words, however, mark a contrast from the failed Democratic Party’s stance in recent polls, when it aimed only to keep Abe’s coalition from winning a powerful two-thirds majority rather than ousting it.

Edano said he would not repeat the mistakes of the DP, which from the start was an amalgam of conservatives, liberals and ex-socialists and ended up being plagued by infighting during its 2009-2012 term in office.

“Our positions were clear,” he said, explaining why he thought the CDP outperformed opposition rivals. “We must not make our ideas and policies vague just to broaden (the party).”

Edano said Abe’s biggest defect was his apparent belief that a majority entitled him to do whatever he wanted. Abe, whose support was at 49 percent in the NHK poll, saw his ratings sink this year partly due to perceptions he had grown arrogant.

“Democracy doesn’t mean you get a blank check,” Edano said.

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