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Friday, July 30, 2010


Ferment within the SDP

Ms. Kiyomi Tsujimoto, a Social Democratic Party stalwart and a star politician as much as party chief Mizuho Fukushima is, announced her departure from the party Tuesday. This could seriously damage the SDP unless it makes strenuous efforts to pursue idealism based on political realism — a difficult endeavor.

Her exit symbolizes the conflict within the SDP between idealism and realism, the former represented by Ms. Fukushima and the latter by Ms. Tsujimoto.

Ms. Fukushima's idealism was clearly shown when she, then consumer affairs minister of the Hatoyama administration, opposed Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's eventual decision to accept the 2006 Japan-U.S. accord to move the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa Island, to Henoko in the northern part of the island, despite his earlier call for moving Futenma's functions outside Okinawa Prefecture. Mr. Hatoyama fired Ms. Fukushima and the SDP left the ruling coalition.

Ms. Fukushima's stance helped the SDP garner the largest vote (22.6 percent) among parties in proportional representation in Okinawa Prefecture in the July 11 Upper House election. But nationwide, the SDP's vote in proportional representation declined from 4.47 percent in 2007 to 3.84 percent this time. Only Ms. Fukushima and another SDP candidate were elected.

Ms. Tsujimoto served as senior vice minister under Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Seiji Maehara in the Hatoyama administration, and built a good working relationship with him. At her news conference, she said that merely criticizing the government cannot effect change in Japan and that voters had told her that the SDP should be part of the ruling coalition to reflect the various voices of citizens.

The SDP must take a cue from what she said. With tenacity, party leaders as well as rank-and-file members must strive to get people to understand what kind of society they want to build under social democracy and, with clear vision, prepare convincing policy measures to push Japanese society closer to their goal. Otherwise, the party could end up becoming a fringe organization.

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