Japan’s ‘third pole’

Various political forces are talking about establishing a “third pole” that will replace the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the No. 1 opposition Liberal Democratic Party. Most of these forces call for revising the war-renouncing Constitution or for exercising the right to collective defense, while some are strongly pushing neo-liberal, market-fundamentalist policies that would result in weakening the nation’s social and economic fabric.

What is happening is that the number of political choices in the right-leaning camp is increasing. This is an unhealthy development. People need to carefully study the policies those political forces would bring about and how their policies would affect their lives and the political direction of Japan.

The Japan Restoration Party, led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, hopes to run candidates in all the nation’s 300 single-seat constituencies in the next Lower House election. Former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who has launched a new party, Taiyo no To (Sunrise Party), is calling on Mr. Hashimoto and Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe to form a grand coalition to establish the third pole. He says that the so-called third-pole forces should shed their minor differences and unite on common ground.

Mr. Ichiro Ozawa, a former DPJ secretary general now leading the People’s Life First party, says that the third-pole parties should negotiate to reach an agreement on which parties will run candidates in which constituencies to prevent them from creating advantages for the DPJ or the LDP.

Differences in policy matters among third-pole parties are so big that if they unite without policy coordination, it would be viewed merely as a politically convenient union to seize power. Such a union would be a political disaster even if people were unsatisfied with the political situation dominated by the DPJ and the LDP.

The Japan Restoration Party calls for abolishing all nuclear power plants in the 2030s. Mr. Ishihara doesn’t want to phase out nuclear power. The Japan Restoration Party wants to raise the consumption tax rate to 11 percent and give all of that tax revenue to local governments while abolishing grants from the central government to local governments. Mr. Ishihara is against giving all consumption tax revenue to local governments. Your Party opposes the consumption tax hike unless government waste is eliminated.

People’s Life First opposes raising the consumption tax rate, calls for abolition of nuclear power plants in 10 years and is against establishing the Transpacific Partnership free-trade zone. The Japan Restoration Party and Your Party support the TPP.

Clearly third-pole forces have no common direction in their policies. These forces call for breaking the centralized government system. It will be easy to destroy an established system, but to establish a completely new system will be time-consuming. And there is no guarantee that a new system will work. The quality of people’s lives could deteriorate in the transitional period. People should not be swayed by empty slogan politics.