A political group that aims to form a new party with Diet lawmakers in cooperation with Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has been established. It’s called “Nippon First no Kai” (Japan First party) — similar to “Tomin First no Kai” (Tokyoites first party), which holds the largest number of seats in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, and was founded by Koike herself.
The newly born group’s goal, according to independent House of Representatives lawmaker and Koike’s aide Masaru Wakasa, is to build “a political party that is not the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) or the (main opposition) Democratic Party (DP).” Simply put, the group wants to become an alternative party to replace the DP for voters who are dissatisfied with the current LDP.
In fact, a lot of voters want such a party. As dissatisfaction and criticism against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe remain strong among the public, the impact of a new political party on national elections, if realized, is believed to be large.
A political party, however, cannot exist as a mere alternative to alleviate people’s dissatisfaction, nor would it survive if it was just that. A party naturally needs an ideology and policies on what kind of Japan it aspires to create.
According to Wakasa, the group was set up on July 13. He plans to open a political study group in September at the latest to discover and educate those who will be running in elections for seats in the Diet. While Gov. Koike is unlikely to return to national politics right away, at least five lawmakers currently serving in the Diet, including Wakasa, are expected to form a new party by the end of the year. It is likely that Wakasa has individuals such as lower house member Goshi Hosono, who has recently submitted a letter to leave the DP, and House of Councillors member Yoshimi Watanabe, who has been expelled from Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), in mind to join the planned party.
We have seen many parties come and go, including the Japan New Party founded in 1992, which Koike got aboard from the very beginning. The opposition Nippon Ishin, which initially promoted itself as a viable alternative to the ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito and also to the main opposition DP, has come under growing suspicion that it has become a complementary force of the LDP.
For the latest political group, based on explanations by Wakasa during a news conference, it is difficult to tell how it will be different from the LDP over issues such as constitutional amendments, security policies as well as economic and fiscal policies including its views on the Abe administration’s economic policy mix known as “Abenomics.” Policies on these issues need to be built up before the new party is launched.
Furthermore, many people must have thought of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” slogan when they first heard the group’s name. “Japan First” will give the impression that this party prioritizes Japan’s interests and promotes a xenophobic agenda. What were they thinking when they came up with this party name?
Those related to this group are perhaps rushing to form a new political party because they predict that the prime minister is soon going to dissolve the lower house and call for a snap general election. At the same time, this kind of move to form a new party would only fuel debate pushing for the early dissolution of the lower chamber. Existing parties should not neglect Diet deliberations while being agitated by these moves.