Those who “inherit” campaign machines, political funds and electoral districts from a close relative are dubbed “hereditary lawmakers.” While the practice has been going on for years, it now has become a red-hot issue.

The Democratic Party of Japan has decided to adopt a party rule that will prohibit new candidates from running in future elections if they fit the definition of a hereditary politician. By adopting this rule, the party apparently wants to deflect criticism of the party and former party leader Mr. Ichiro Ozawa following the arrest of his chief aide in connection with alleged political donation irregularities.

The DPJ’s move may have a positive effect on Japanese politics in the long run. According to Kyodo News, about 130 people who plan to run in the 300 single-seat constituencies in the coming Lower House election have parents or grandparents who were Diet members. About 110 of them have been elected from the same constituencies as their parents or grandparents — about 90 of them belong to the Liberal Democratic Party and about 20 are with the DPJ. Among them are Mr. Ozawa and former Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda.

Politicians who “inherit” constituents, political machines and funds have a strong advantage in elections. But often they fail to develop tenacity and perseverance — an essential quality for politicians — because they didn’t have to fight hard to get elected. And because they have lived privileged lives, they sometimes have difficulty understanding ordinary citizens’ sentiments.

Now that the DPJ has adopted the new party rule, the LDP appears inclined to follow suit. If it does so before the coming Lower House election, the LDP would have to keep the second son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and the eldest son of former Justice Minister Hideo Usui off the party ticket.

While it would be unconstitutional to make such a rule a law, internal efforts by parties to do so will help bring new blood into Japanese politics.

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