Five former Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers have formed a new party named Tachiagare Nippon (which translates as “stand up, Japan”). The party says that its primary goal is to prevent the Democratic Party of Japan from gaining a majority in the coming Upper House election. In that case, the party has problems.
The five lawmakers’ average age is nearly 70. Former trade minister Takeo Hiranuma, the party head, is a conservative whose top priority is revising the Constitution and preserving traditional Japanese values. Such a party is likely to have difficulty in attracting nonpartisan voters — especially women — despite the fact that many such voters are believed to be disappointed with the DPJ-led government.
Former Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano, who serves as the new party’s co-leader, described the party’s basic stance as “anti-DPJ and non-LDP.” The party asserts that Japan will go broke if the DPJ-led administration continues and that the LDP, whose approval rating is low, is incapable of mounting an effective attack on the current administration. Yet Tachiagre Nippon also says that in the coming Upper House election it will consider cooperating with the LDP in one-seat constituencies, in which the new party will not run candidates.
It is unclear whether Tachiagre Nippon wants to establish itself as a third-pole party, and it runs the risk that voters will regard it as a second LDP. If it emphasizes positioning itself as a third-pole party, it may merely end up siphoning votes from Minna no To (Your Party), which has an approval rating of nearly 10 percent.
The new party’s ideological and policy coherence is also questionable. While Mr. Hiranuma is a staunch conservative, Mr. Yosano is regarded as a liberal. Mr. Hiranuma, who strongly opposed the postal privatization, left the LDP in 2005, when Mr. Yosano was pushing postal reform as the LDP’s policy chief.
Despite the new party’s apparent weaknesses, its formation serves as a warning to both the DPJ and the LDP, and illustrates that, as the leading parties, both have strong responsibilities. Unless the DPJ starts to fully explain the basic ideas behind its policies, it will not be able to reverse the sharp decline in its approval ratings. And the LDP will be unable to recover as a political force unless it can offer policies that convincingly address major issues.
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