A naive administration that created political confusion reached a deadlock after somewhat more than three years in office. Will the opposition camp make use of the bitter lessons learned from the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan-led government? There must be serious concerns about the present state of the opposition.
The DPJ administration was launched 10 years ago. The party betrayed its immaturity, and this cost it popular support. As a result of its crushing defeat in the House of Representatives election in December 2012, the current administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was inaugurated.
In its manifesto for the 2009 lower house election, the DPJ announced such plans as creating a child-support allowance program and making expressways toll-free. The party stressed that it would be possible to raise ¥16.8 trillion by ending the wasteful use of tax revenue and abolishing unnecessary and less pressing projects.
The DPJ had to revise one plan after another stated in its manifesto, which it had drawn up without considering the feasibility of each item. It must be said that the party was overly optimistic about future prospects.
Another case in point was the DPJ’s approach toward the planned transfer of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture. The Cabinet of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama caused the Japan-U.S. relationship to deteriorate, as it was obsessed with the idea of relocating the facility to a location outside the prefecture. This also aroused distrust among local communities in the prefecture. He must bear grave responsibility for creating the turmoil that continues even today.
The DPJ was formed in 1998, with a wide range of Diet members joining the party, including conservative lawmakers and those originally from the former Japan Socialist Party. In 2003, it merged with the Liberal Party, which was led by lower house member Ichiro Ozawa. The DPJ prioritized bringing together non-LDP legislators, aiming to seize power from the ruling camp.
Present realistic policies
The cabinets of Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his successor Yoshihiko Noda experienced turmoil due to a conflict with a group of DPJ members supporting Ozawa over such issues as a proposed increase in the consumption tax rate. It was only natural that the DPJ — a party of legislators with different political beliefs — was not able to properly grapple with difficult political issues.
After the DPJ’s fall from power, the party underwent repeated mergers and splits, adopting new names on such occasions. Today, former party members belong to such groups as the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) and the Democratic Party for the People (DPP). This leaves a strong impression that they have always sought to make up the numbers to emerge as an influential force, putting off the task of forming a consensus about ideals and policies.
In July’s House of Councillors election, the CDPJ and DPP insisted on implementing policies that will likely require a massive amount of expenditures. On the other hand, they called for freezing or scrapping the consumption tax rate increase. The parties, lacking a convincing source of revenue to implement such policies, were unrealistic. Are they oblivious to the errors committed during the days of the DPJ government?
The two parties intend to form an allied bloc in the Diet, with a view to conducting joint activities in the legislature. Although their alliance is not a merger of political parties, they will need to act in concert as they vote on bills. It is indispensable for them to discuss such major policies as security, constitutional amendment and energy so they can establish some common ground. They should challenge the government through constructive debate.
Their expected united front in the Diet seems to suggest that they are considering the possibility of a merger in the future. If that move is regarded as a mere attempt to bring the two camps back together again, it is hard to imagine the party regaining the public’s trust.
The two parties should make steady efforts to explore what kind of nation this country should become while also honing their policies, keeping in mind the continuing population decline and the aging of society, among other issues. They must prepare themselves to confront the government, thereby creating an atmosphere of urgency in the political arena.