The Democratic Party of Japan is in crisis. After suffering a crushing defeat in the Lower House election in December 2012, it was also badly beaten in the Upper House election on July 21. First and foremost, every DPJ member must have a sense of crisis and a strong will to get back the lost ground, a prerequisite for the party’s comeback. The party also needs to develop a policy line clearly different from the Liberal Democratic Party, around which DPJ members can rally. DPJ chief Banri Kaieda must tackle in earnest the task of unifying the party and issuing strong messages to people.
In the Upper House election, the DPJ won only 17 seats, a record low in the party’s history. It could not win any seat in single-seat constituencies. Even in important multiple-seat constituencies like Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, it could not get any seat. In proportional representation, the DPJ won seven seats, the same number as Komeito. But in the number of votes obtained in proportional representation, the DPJ has fallen to a No. 3 party. It garnered only 13.40 percent of the vote while Komeito got 14.22 percent.
The dismal performance is attributable to the fact that the DPJ government had made the DPJ’s position closer to that of the LDP in important policy measures, namely decisions to raise the consumption tax rate and to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade scheme, loosening of the ban on weapons exports and a push for export of nuclear power technology.
In this situation, the DPJ must present a policy line distinguished from the LDP. One area is economic policy.
The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will push deregulation. The DPJ must prevent Mr. Abe’s policy from only favoring big enterprises and weakening the position of workers and must work out measures to revitalize small and medium-size businesses as well as local economies. It also should question in a convincing manner the wisdom of restarting nuclear power plants in this quake-prone country and in the absence of technology to safely keep high-level radioactive waste.
The Achilles’ heel of the DPJ is that it is divided over the issue of constitutional revisions. It should carry out thorough discussions within the party so that it can come up with a unified stance that clearly differs from the LDP’s, while upholding the principle of protecting constitutionally guaranteed people’s rights and the no-war principle. The DPJ also needs to strengthen party discipline to stop the habit of individual party members often expressing views that obviously benefit its political enemies.
The DPJ’s manifesto for the Upper House election was rather abstract. It should return to the principle of writing a manifesto in a concrete manner including timelines and ways to raise funds to achieve particular goals.
In a nutshell, the DPJ must present a vision of a future Japan that is different from Mr. Abe’s line, based on the idea of stabilizing the lives of workers and ordinary citizens. The party should not give up its important role of checking the excess of the Abe administration.