Political parties participating in the July 21 Upper House election have the campaign schedules of their leaders and executive officers posted on their official websites.
But absent from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s website is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s schedule.
Even though the LDP informs local support organizations of Abe’s schedule in advance and discloses it to the media by the morning of each engagement, we must question the party’s apparent lack of interest in promoting its policies widely to the voting public.
In stating its reasons for non-disclosure, the LDP claims that the prime minister’s official responsibilities render his schedule fluid, and that this is also intended to avert any “scenes” being created in the prime minister’s presence.
Koichi Hagiuda, LDP’s executive acting secretary-general, explained: “There are organized groups that show up with the intent of disrupting the prime minister’s speeches. Those people are nothing but a nuisance to others who want to listen to what the prime minister has to say.”
Obviously, what Hagiuda had in mind was an incident that occurred in the Akihabara district on the final day of the Tokyo metropolitan assembly election campaign in the summer of 2017. Some spectators in the audience called stridently for Abe’s resignation, and Abe retorted, “We cannot lose (the election) to these people.”
Abe came under fire for his perceived refusal to face severe public criticism against himself.
During the Lower House election campaign three months later, the LDP partially withheld disclosure of Abe’s campaign schedule.
And when Abe gave a speech in Tokyo’s Akihabara district on the final day of the LDP presidential election last year, some LDP members cordoned off a space–even though the venue was public–to keep the area off-limits to anyone who did not support Abe.
Such is the backdrop of the LDP’s current Upper House election campaign strategy for its leader, sarcastically dubbed “Abe’s stealth campaign.”
The significance of street speeches lies in the fact that the speakers can broadcast their policies widely to any member of the voting public who cares to listen.
Abe’s apparent narrow-mindedness and lack of interest in people who do not support him make him thoroughly unfit as the leader of the nation’s ruling party.
When he stumped on July 7 in front of JR Nakano Station in Tokyo, a crowd carrying placards, bearing messages that were both for and against the prime minister, jostled and fought for space. Raucous calls for Abe’s resignation were countered by angry shouts of “Shut up.”
The sharply divided crowd seemed to epitomize the current rift in public opinion generated by the Abe administration. We believe this is a natural outcome of the administration’s disregard for consensus-building and its high-handed political style that relies on the powerful forces that support its agenda.
During the current campaign, Abe has repeatedly played to the gallery, so to speak, by deliberately calling the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the top opposition party, by the wrong name.
He has said mockingly, “Mr. Edano of the opposition party. Of the Democratic Party … Oops, it’s now called the Constitutional Democratic Party, right? It’s changed its name so many times, it’s hard to keep track and remember.”
The party’s leader, Yukio Edano, complained about this “election interference.” But Abe has shown no signs of contrition.
Even though the ruling and opposition parties are inevitably in fierce competition at election time, this never means it’s acceptable for any party to treat another with disrespect and hostility.
But that is exactly what Abe’s LDP is doing. Its politics of intolerance for values other than its own will only deepen the rift that already exists in society.