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Editorial: Opposition should unite to distinguish itself from coalition government

  • 2016-02-24 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
  • Translation

(Nikkei: February 24, 2016 – p. 2)

 

 No progress can be made without competition. The existence of solid opposition parties is indispensable to strong politics. The merger of the Democratic Party of Japan and the Japan Innovation Party is expected to become a major step forward in that process. They will not be able to win public trust by simply joining hands. They must highlight the differences between their policies and those of the coalition government led by the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito Party.

 

 The DPJ and JIP have agreed in principle (1) that the JIP will be disbanded and its members will join the DPJ, and (2) that the DPJ will change its name. The DPJ had been calling for a merger through absorbing the smaller partner, while the JIP had insisted a merger should take place on level playing field. The deal was clinched by finding middle ground. In March, they will convene a party convention under a new name.

 

 But these procedures are not very important. What matters the most is to reach a consensus in terms of policy. The DPJ simply advocated a “regime change” to wrest power from the LDP, but later it imploded due to a spate of infighting. The DPJ and JIP will not be able to play a part in the two-party system if they fail to find common ground in their basic policies on the Constitution, foreign affairs, and national security, as well as how to rebuild the economy.

 

 The DPJ has been long been a party made up of politicians with various backgrounds. The JIP will join this motley group. Unless the two parties set forth a clear policy direction, they will not be able to counter criticism such as LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki’s characterization of the merger as “visionless consolidation.” They should discuss the merger with a strong emphasis on polices.

 

 The LDP used to accommodate a broad spectrum of opinions regarding constitutional revisions, but of late, liberal voters are trying to keep a distance from it due to its conservative-aligned policies. The DPJ and JIP may want to consider formulating policies that cater to the demands of these people.

 

 The DPJ and JIP should not merely face off against the coalition government and formulate unrealistic proposals. Voters want to know about the long-term vision for the party’s policy direction, not what will happen today or tomorrow.

 

 The DPJ and JIP are planning to join hands with the Japanese Communist Party, the Social Democratic Party, and the People’s Life Party in the upcoming House of Councillors’ election. It is true that if they don’t unite, they won’t be able to challenge the mammoth ruling parties, but they need to iron out the differences between their policy stances to better compete with them.

 

 In past elections, the opposition parties cooperated on a number of occasions, but they were criticized by the ruling parties for not being united in terms of policy, and in fact they often ended up faulting each other. Expectations are growing within the ruling parties for calling a snap election together with the Upper House race, simply because they think the opposition parties cannot join forces for the Lower House race as there will be many seats up for grabs.

 

 Voters are watching to see whether the DPJ and JIP merger will plant seeds for future political realignment or simply turn into a mutual aid association for elections.

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