Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

【#308】Wake up Democratic Party of Japan

Akihisa Nagashima / 2015.06.16 (Tue)

June 15, 2015

     In 2000, I dared to join the Democratic Party of Japan, then the largest opposition party in Japan, in a bid to develop a political group that could take government from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. After spending three years preparing for another National Diet election after I lost my initial try, I was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2003. During that period, the DPJ had been ambitious to reform Japanese politics and submitted tens of bills without help from bureaucrats at each parliamentary session. It had advocated thorough decentralization and reform in a bid to replace the old-fashioned LDP. Overcoming the characteristics of a perpetual opposition party, the DPJ had pursued realistic foreign and national security policies. So, my days as a lawmaker candidate had been hopeful while being painstaking.

Losing voters' confidence
     After losing massive House of Representatives seats following the chamber's dissolution over the postal system reform initiative in 2005, the DPJ won government at last in 2009. With more than 400 seats in the two chambers of the Diet, the DPJ sent three political-level ministers (cabinet minister, parliamentary senior vice-minister and parliamentary vice-minister) to each ministry in a bid to break up bureaucratic control and establish a completely new politician-led Japanese politics. But these DPJ lawmakers with dominant support from voters, repeatedly created frictions in various places, bringing about unnecessary confusion to national politics.
     The most typical troublemaker was none other than then Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama. His lip service message to Okinawa pushed Japan-U.S. relations to the brink of breakup, leading his administration to collapse. By the time Yoshihiko Noda took over Naoto Kan as prime minister, the DPJ had irreversibly lost voters' confidence. Although the Noda administration accumulated hard efforts to implement difficult challenges such as the reconstruction of the Japan-U.S. alliance, the government's purchase of the Senkaku Islands and a decision to raise the consumption tax, the DPJ lost government to the LDP in a little more than three years.

Perpetual opposition party opposing anything
     As nearly two years and a half have passed since then, few people may view the DPJ as a reform-oriented party. The Japan Innovation Party has replaced the DPJ as a reform-oriented party. The number of DPJ lawmakers in the Upper House is close to that in the Lower House, while those from labor unions and other organizations are dominant among the Upper House members. Present discussions within the DPJ have centered on how to defend the party organization and become futile, ignoring voters' desire and deviating far from the previous unfettered discussions.
     Present parliamentary debates on national security legislation growingly indicate the DPJ as a perpetual opposition party opposing anything, completely dissimilar to one of the "Big Two" conservative parties that we had pursued.
     The DPJ, if left unchanged, will never be able to win back government. The party now has no choice but to overhaul itself and restart. First, the DPJ will be criticized as a force opposing any reform unless it ends its dependence on labor unions. Second, the DPJ must revise its "Big Government" approach biased to social welfare spending and come up with an economic policy replacing Abenomics and with a rural community revitalization strategy. Third, the DPJ must stop any excessive political wrangling and quickly return to realistic foreign and national security policies seen before the government change. The DPJ must wake up or fade away.

Akihisa Nagashima is a House of Representatives lawmaker from the Democratic Party of Japan and a former Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister of Defense