How will the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, revitalize itself based on an examination of its crushing defeat in the latest House of Representatives election? If the party is really to aim for a change of power to replace the current ruling parties, it is essential for it to put forward constructive policies and win the trust of the public.
Kenta Izumi defeated three other candidates in the CDPJ election to be named the new party leader. “I want to bring everyone’s strength together and start walking again, as a political party that works for the people,” Izumi said.
Izumi came out on top in the first round of voting, which included rank-and-file party members, and won by a large margin over Seiji Osaka in the run-off election, in which votes from Diet members become more important.
During the leadership election campaign, Izumi stressed that he would change the CDPJ’s image as a political party that was fixated on criticism to one that will map out and propose policies. Voters may have had high expectations for Izumi as he is young at 47 and spoke of the need to reform the party.
Although Izumi insisted that he would realize a society in which ordinary people can feel a sense of reassurance in their daily lives, it is hard to say that he has clarified his vision for the nation and specific policies. The candidates could not deepen debate during the election campaign apparently because they wanted to avoid a confrontation over the party line.
There is little time left before next summer’s House of Councillors election. In the extraordinary Diet session in December and the ordinary Diet session next year, the CDPJ will be tested as to how the party can promote its own policies to the public while confronting the government and ruling parties.
Izumi used to belong to the old version of the Democratic Party for the People before the party made a fresh start with the same party name in 2020, and will also need to coordinate policies with leftist and liberal lawmakers to establish a strongly unified party structure.
In the lower house election campaign, the CDPJ facilitated a united front with the Japanese Communist Party, but ultimately lost seats. How the party will review the proper form of cooperation among opposition parties for the next upper house election is an urgent task.
Izumi said there was a sense of resistance among the public to the cooperation with the JCP, hinting at a review of the building of an alliance with the JCP. The Japanese Trade Union Confederation — the country’s largest labor organization, known as Rengo and a supporter of the CDPJ — is also critical of the united front. Izumi needs to compile the party’s future policies as soon as possible and explain them thoroughly.
In the lower house election, more votes critical of the administration went to Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) and the DPFP, rather than the CDPJ, apparently because the CDPJ failed to present a positive reform plan in areas of strong interest to the public, such as the economy and social security.
The previous CDPJ leadership headed by former party leader Yukio Edano, who emphasized the need for opposition parties to cooperate with each other, has called for the partial abolition of the security-related laws and the suspension of work to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture.
However, as North Korea and China have intensified their military provocations, policies that could destabilize the Japan-U.S. alliance cannot win the support of many voters. As long as the party platform calls for “realistic security and diplomacy,” the CDPJ needs to discuss specific policies to promote this goal.
If there is little possibility of a change of power, tension will be lost in politics. The CDPJ should consider ways to rebuild the party, through such measures as drastically strengthening its local organizations, rather than depending merely on floating votes that are easily influenced by prevailing trends.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 1, 2021.