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Former health, welfare and labor minister Yoichi Masuzoe on Friday launched a new party, Shinto Kaikaku (literally “new party for reform”). In opinions polls, the former Liberal Democratic Party member was most preferred option for prime minister from among a list of politicians. The six-member party obviously depends on Mr. Masuzoe’s popularity. But there is no guarantee that this factor alone will bring success in the coming Upper House election.

While a member of the LDP, Mr. Masuzoe repeatedly criticized the party leadership, headed by former Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki. His repeated criticisms, which were not backed by positive moves on his part to strengthen the party, alienated many LDP politicians and led some of them to call on the party leadership to issue him “advice to leave the party.” Apparently Mr. Masuzoe had no choice but to do so.

Although Mr. Masuzoe must have wanted to establish a new party in the true sense of the word, Shinto Kaikaku is not, by legal technicality, a new party. It was created by changing the name of Kaikaku Club (Japan Renaissance Party), a minor opposition party. Mr. Masuzoe, two other defectors from the LDP and three from Kaikaku Club formed the new party. There is no avoiding the impression that the new party’s formation was somewhat rushed. There was no indication that Mr. Masuzoe and Kaikaku Club members had previously seriously discussed ideological or policy matters.

Mr. Masuzoe accuses the Democratic Party of Japan of “pursuing excessively socialistic policies” and says that his party will build a Japan in which “autonomous individuals” will play active roles. As one of its main policies, the party calls for halving the number of Diet members. But it fails to explain how the reduction of the number of Diet members will promote democracy and enhance politics’ ability to solve society’s various problems.

Mr. Masuzoe’s departure from the LDP, although expected, is a blow to the party. The No. 1 opposition party must study in earnest what people really need and work out policies to respond to those needs.

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