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Editorial: Japan’s new political party must go beyond opposing Abe’s politics

  • September 11, 2020
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press
  • ,

Yukio Edano has been named leader of a new opposition party to be formed through a merger between the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) and the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP), with legislators voting to retain the name of the current main opposition party.

 

The CDP bears a heavy responsibility to bring a sense of tension back to politics in Japan under the leadership of 56-year-old Edano.

 

A total of 149 legislators from both chambers of the Diet took part in the vote. The Diet has been made light of under the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who alone has wielded power, partly because the opposition was weak. It is understandable that the opposition parties moved to create a force to oppose the giant ruling coalition.

 

DPFP leader Yuichiro Tamaki and other former trade union-affiliated legislators did not take part in the vote, leaving a rift within the party. Considering that they were not aligned on constitutional issues and energy policy, it is only natural that they have refrained from participating in the party merger.

 

Edano, who will continue to lead the CDP after the merger, has stated that he will stand at the forefront and change politics. The public, however, has shown little interest in the merger of the two opposition parties, and expectations for the post-merger political group remain low. Both of the merging parties, which have struggled to extend their bases of public support, went ahead with the move as they were under pressure to achieve a breakthrough. It is likely difficult to wipe away the impression that the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which failed in its management of the administration, is now simply getting back together.

 

Three years ago, the newly formed CDP received a gust of support in the 2017 House of Representatives election after forces that did not join the Party of Hope raised a joint banner. Edano refused to align with other political forces to make up numbers, and his party accordingly moved to expand grassroots support.

 

The CDP, however, has been unable to rise above the position of being like the operator of an individual business, and has failed to earn widespread support. In recent public opinion polls, the party has languished behind the opposition Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party). The CDP has even been in danger of losing its position as the nation’s largest opposition party, and it is likely the party thus moved to prioritize the advantages of scale.

 

Edano and his fellow party officials should examine what they have lacked to date. For one thing, Edano lacked effort in explaining his party’s policies to the public. After the Abe administration presented distribution-oriented policies such as guaranteeing the same wages for the same work and supporting the upbringing of children, it appears the CDP was unable to clearly define any counterproposals.

 

And now, with Prime Minister Abe stepping down for health reasons, Edano will be under pressure to recast his strategy of rallying fellow opposition parties together to counter Abe by criticizing his political methods.

 

Edano criticized Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga’s emphasis on “self-help.” But if he is going to counter this with a focus on distribution-oriented policies, then he will also need to formulate economic policies and acquire the financial resources to do so. We hope he can present a comprehensive picture of policies that can reach out to both conservative and moderate wings, such as those on social and national security.

 

Bold promotion of women and young workers is also essential. The new party needs to build a framework that reassures the public of its difference compared to before the merger.

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