By Kame Manabu
The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) selected Izumi Kenta as its new leader. Now he will be tested on his ability to turn it into a responsible party that people can entrust to take power. He must modify the party’s direction while maintaining its solidarity.
On diplomacy and national security, Izumi advocated the “promotion of realistic foreign and security policies based on the solid Japan-U.S. alliance” during the party’s leadership campaign. He also underscored that he would maintain the party’s principle of “pursuing realistic policies with nearby nations, taking a restrained approach to countries far away and actively extending humanitarian assistance.”
The idea of “pursuing realistic policies with nearby nations” was once advocated by conservatives within the defunct Democratic Party of Japan (DPP). As party policy chief, Izumi approved of the inclusion of the Taiwan Strait in the Japan-U.S. joint statement released in April by the leaders of the two nations.
The CDPJ agreed with the Japanese Community Party to “cooperate as a limited, non-cabinet ally” and fielded unified candidates in single-seat constituencies. The JCP calls for the “abolishment of the Japan-U.S. security treaty” and the “disbandment of the Self-Defense Forces.” The CDPJ approach of joining hands with the JCP while keeping the Japan-U.S. alliance as a cornerstone proved a hard sell to voters.
The security environment in East Asia is growing more tense, as China is ramping up its military capabilities and North Korea keeps pursuing nuclear and missile development. Japan may be perceived as an unstable nation by the international community if there are huge policy gaps in foreign policy and national security between the ruling camp and the largest opposition party.
Izumi must indicate what sort of partnership his party will pursue with the JCP. If the opposition camp seriously aims to become an alternative to the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito Party and to wrest power from the ruling coalition, foreign and national security policies that are rooted in reality are indispensable.
Based on that, the party needs to make a decision whether it will distance itself from the JCP or call on it to make policy compromises.
From the viewpoint of ordinary citizens and workers, democracy will deteriorate if there is no opposition party to compete with the ruling parties in policy.
One worrisome factor is Izumi’s position on the consumption tax. He has called for cutting the consumption tax to 5% for a limited time.
He argued that the idea is aimed to help people hit by the pandemic, but to restore the tax [to 10%] would require enormous political energy. The CDPJ will not be able to claim it is a responsible political party if it does not have a long-term vision for the nation’s finances.