(Nikkei: March 15, 2016 – p. 4)
The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and the Japan Innovation Party (JIP) decided on the name of the new party they are forming through an opinion poll. Poll results show that even DPJ supporters picked “Minshinto” over “Rikken-Minshuto [Constitutional Democratic Party]” favored by the party. This reflects the respondents’ abandonment of the DPJ, which was a major miscalculation by Diet members and Rengo (Japan Trade Union Confederation) — its main support group — who were insisting on retaining the word “minshu” in the party’s name. The DPJ and the JIP will be forming a new party to fight with the Abe administration in the House of Councillors election in July. Their main concern will be whether they will be able to win the voters’ hearts toward rebuilding a two-party system.
The two parties each administered an opinion poll by phone on 2,000 respondents. Both polls show that pollees favored “Minshinto” over “Rikken-Minshuto” by more than 5 percentage points. Furthermore, “Minshinto” enjoyed more support from DPJ supporters, JIP supporters, as well as unaffiliated voters, including DPJ supporters surveyed by the DPJ.
Liberals in the DPJ and Rengo have strong misgivings. A Diet member due for reelection in the Upper House election complained that, “I will need to replace all my posters and flyers and I will also have to work for name recognition of the new party in the little time left.”
A senior Rengo official was furious. He said: “A majority of the industrial labor unions [under Rengo] want to retain ‘minshu’ in the party name. We are exasperated with this decision.”
However, the unmistakable lack of support for “minshu” in the polls reflects the gap between the “minshu” advocates and the voters. The issue for the new party will be whether it can overcome discontent with the party name as soon as possible and become the core of the opposition force in the Upper House election.
The DPJ and the JIP have finalized the new party’s political platform for its launch on Mar. 27. They will now work on adjusting their policy differences. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga gave these cynical comments at his news conference on Mar. 14: “They should have discussed policies, rather than the party name, first.” (Abridged)