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Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013


Wanted: a new vision for the DPJ

Mr. Banri Kaieda, the new head of the Democratic Party of Japan, faces the important task of reviving the party, which was in power for three years and three months until the Dec. 16 Lower House election.

The election decimated the DPJ's strength in the Diet chamber to 57 seats — less than one-fourth its pre-election strength of 233 seats. As the Liberal Democratic Party has started its business as a governing party, Mr. Kaieda must make strenuous efforts to present convincing policy proposals to the public and to strengthen the party's organization, especially its local chapters.

The biggest political event of the year for which Mr. Kaieda must prepare is the Upper House election this summer. He must strive to learn the lessons of the DPJ's failure and then apply them as he reconstructs the party.

The DPJ made eye-catching promises before and after it took power from the LDP in the August 2009 Lower House election. Under the slogan of "from concrete to humans," it proposed ending the construction of Yanba Dam in Gunma Prefecture and abolishing the medical care system for people aged 75 and up, which had been introduced by the LDP-Komeito coalition government. The DPJ also called for moving the functions of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma out of Okinawa Prefecture. But the party failed to implement any of all these promises.

In developing policy proposals, Mr. Kaieda must take into consideration what obstacles exist in policy implementation and the concrete steps that must be taken to overcome them. He must make clear what actions the party will take to implement its policy proposals, otherwise it will be difficult to get people's support for his party.

Even more important, Mr. Kaieda must present the public with the DPJ's future vision of Japan. The LDP is ready to break with the DPJ's line on social policy, which included making high school tuition free for all households irrespective of their income levels. The economic policy of the Japan Restoration Party, the No. 3 party in the Lower House with 54 seats, is largely inclined toward neoliberal market fundamentalism. Given this situation, Mr. Kaieda must tell people what kind of society his party wants to build by presenting proposals whose orientation is clearly different from that of the LDP and the Japan Restoration Party.

The Dec. 16 Lower House election weakened left-of-center and social democratic forces. Mr. Kaieda needs to develop programs that will help strengthen them. Little time is left; Mr. Kaieda must hurriedly write a party platform that will clearly distinguish the DPJ from the LDP's orientation and give voters a clear choice.

If the LDP wins in the coming Upper House election, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to move toward laying the foundation for revising the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, which would completely change the basic character of Japan.

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