Wednesday 18 October 2017

Japanese Politics in Flux (Part 2): Hoping for a Viable Opposition

On September 25th, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike sent shock waves through the political establishment - and totally dominated the media - by announcing the formation of a new political party, Kibō no Tō (希望の党) or "Party of Hope" in English. Triggered by Abe's decision to hold a snap election slated for October 22nd, her announcement completely overshadowed the Prime Minister's moves to secure a political mandate for his pet-project of constitutional reform. It also prompted the main (but already disintegrating) opposition party - the Democratic Party - to effectively abolish itself, with its leader announcing that it would not field candidates in the upcoming election; members were urged to run as candidates for the new party instead. Koike made clear though that she would select only "suitable" candidates for her new conservative party - what the media has dubbed a "Death Note" playing on the popular Japanese manga of the same name. Before being given the chop by Koike, a number of centre-left members from the defunct Democratic Party formed a new party on October 2nd, the CDP or Constitutional Party of Japan (Rikken Minshutō=立憲民主党). The party is fielding 78 candidates for the election, far less than the 235 put forward by the Party of Hope. 
Election board with four election posters stuck on
Election poster in Kodaira, showing only 4 candidates (LDP, JCP, CDP, and "The Party of Hope"
 Considering Koike's landslide victory in the Tokyo Metropolitan elections in July, some commentators initially saw her as a genuine threat to the ruling LDP. The "hope" was that at long last Japan could have a viable opposition. Indeed, the slogan for the new party is "Hope for Japan" (Nihon ni Kibō =日本に希望) together with "citizens' first" and "a reset for Japan." On the other hand, many observers remain sceptical whether Koike can take on the dual roles of regional governor and leader of a national political party. Moreover, there has been little time to organise candidates and put together a manifesto before the election. Indeed, in my own constituency the Hope candidate doesn't  actually seem very hopeful or experienced: her poster (right) focuses on her experience as a victim of crime. After all the hype, I get the feeling that Abe will win with a slightly reduced majority and it will be back to one-party politics as usual.

[UPDATE] Final results saw the LDP retain their two-thirds super-majority with 313 seats, down five seats - as predicted above!]