(Sankei: December 22, 2015 – p. 5)
The formation of new political parties becomes a year-end seasonable event. On Dec. 21, the “Kaikaku Kesshu no Kai (assembly of reform)” was set up and became the 16th national political party founded over the past five years. Half of them were established from December to January.
The establishment of political parties during this time has much to do with provision of political subsidies. About 32 billion yen in subsidies are given to political parties every year and distributed in four installments. The amount is determined based on such criteria as the number of Diet members. In principle, the money is allocated to parties that exist as of January 1. That is why this time sees the birth of numerous new political parties.
In recent years, political parties have been set up and disbanded over a short period of time. After bolting from the Democratic Party of Japan in 2012, Ichiro Ozawa set up the People’s Life First, Tomorrow Party of Japan, and People’s Life Party in succession. For a political party to qualify for political subsidies, it has to have at least five Diet members. The People’s Life Party was short one member after the general election in December 2014, but it got Taro Yamamoto, an independent in the House of Councillors, to join on Dec. 26 that year.
The Assembly to Energize Japan is in peril of extinction. Yoshiyuki Inoue tendered his resignation on Dec. 7. The party leadership has yet to give the nod to his departure, but it may lose its qualification as a political party. Kota Matsuda, party president, is rushing to secure a new member before the “January 1” deadline.
The Japanese Communist Party opposes the political subsidy system. Party Chair Kazuo Shii criticized the year-end formation of political parties in a tweet posted in January of this year: “Politicians are setting up and dissolving political parties just to grab subsidies. That is sordid and shameful.”
A new political party can be allocated time to ask questions at the Diet and have an edge in campaigning for elections once it is formed. It cannot be concluded that its establishment is not for the sake of money. But of the 16 parties set up over the past five years, only six, including the “Kaikaku Kesshu no Kai,” survive till to date. The survival rate remains low, which begs the question whether this is an effective use of taxpayer money. (Abridged)