(Asahi: October 16, 2015 – p. 3)
The Japanese Communist Party (JCP) is prepared to suspend even the main pillars of its political platform and tolerate the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in its advocacy of a “national coalition government.” It wants to ride on critical public opinion against the security bills with nest year’s House of Councillors election in mind. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which has been offered election cooperation by the JCP, is put on the defensive.
The groundwork for the strategy to suspend basic policies in the party platform in order to realize a “national coalition government” was laid even before the enactment of the security laws.
The leaders of five opposition parties, including the DPJ, the Japan Innovation Party, and the JCP, met on Sept. 18, where they decided to jointly submit a motion for a vote of no confidence on the Abe cabinet. JCP Chairman Kazuo Shii stated at that meeting: “If the vote of no confidence is passed, the next step will be to form a coalition government by our five parties.”
The JCP Central Committee held a plenary meeting on Sept. 19, after the security laws were enacted. The party declared in this meeting a plan to establish a “national coalition government by all political parties, groups, and individuals for one single cause: repeal of the war laws and return to constitutionalism.” It called on the opposition parties to “put on hold or suspend” their policy differences to form a “grand coalition.”
Shii fleshed out this proposal at his news conference on Oct. 15.
Behind this is the party’s desire to take advantage of the mass protests during the security bill deliberations that spread nationwide from outside the Diet building, as evidenced by the activities of the student group SEALDs, in the forthcoming Upper House election.
The JCP had also suggested a coalition of opposition parties in the past. It proposed a “provisional coalition government” in 1998 focusing on three issues: abolition of the consumption tax, ban on corporate political donations, and opposition to liberalization of rice.
However, this time, it is adding the grand slogan of “returning to constitutionalism” to the specific policy of “repealing the unconstitutional war laws.” A majority in the House of Representatives is required to repeal the security laws, so it appears that the JCP has a relatively long-term full-fledged administration in mind, compared with its past proposals for a provisional government.
Proposing the suspension of the party’s key policies to achieve a full-fledged administration effectively means a drastic policy shift for the JCP. It is putting the party’s raison d’etre on the line. A senior party official notes: “It will not be possible to topple the Abe administration without going that far. We have decided to cross the Rubicon out of a sense of crisis about this abnormal situation where the government charges ahead in disregard of popular will.”
Most DPJ members are negative about the JCP’s proposal for cooperation to form a national coalition government.
Party leader Katsuya Okada indicated a negative view during a speech in Tokyo on Oct. 15, saying: “The hurdles are very high for forming an administration together. There are too many policy differences at this point.”
Since the JCP has consistently called for abolishing the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and claimed that the SDF is unconstitutional, its gap with the DPJ on security and foreign policy is enormous.
Furthermore, the JCP was once an advocate of revolution and armed struggle. DPJ supporters have a strong allergy to such political leaning. A senior DPJ official points out: “Even if we gain 20,000 votes from JCP followers, we may lose 30,000 votes from DPJ supporters.”
However, the DPJ is also unsettled by the JCP’s call for election cooperation and offers to make concessions in security policy in its effort to unite the opposition.
“While it is impossible to realign political forces with the JCP, election cooperation is possible,” says a senior DPJ official. “Yet we allowed the JCP to take the initiative. The DPJ should be the one exercising leadership.” Another DPJ official observes that “it is not good to discuss cooperation with the JCP having the initiative.” (Slightly abridged)