Tokyo's Trials: Can the DPJ Change Japan
The rise to power of the
But the road will be long and tortuous. In virtually all sectors of society, the gaps are growing between the urban and the rural, full-time workers and part-time workers, the highly educated and the poorly educated.
The DPJ's recent rise has coincided with this low point, and the party claims to offer an alternative to the LDP's disappointing record. In order to succeed, the DPJ's strategy will have to redistribute income to the needy and the working poor and broaden opportunities for long-term employment and future growth. Yet so far, it has not mapped out dynamic growth strategies for either.
Despite a general consensus within the DPJ, the party's heavyweights hold diverging views on some important matters. The DPJ is deeply divided over
Meanwhile, on issues that garner a consensus within the DPJ, the party's views may be more similar to the LDP's than voters realize. Issues such as support for farmers and for child rearing highlight the similarities between the two parties. Both have agreed to increase funding for those areas, and both realize that given
Likewise, the two parties' bases are more similar than it might appear at first. The DPJ is more socially and ideologically diverse than the LDP, being neither class-based nor ideologically or religiously oriented. The DPJ's supporters have typically been city dwellers and labor unions, whereas the LDP's have traditionally been rural groups, the elderly, and big business. But the DPJ also enjoys a number of supporters in the business world, especially in the information technology industries. And recently, the parties' bases have been shifting. The elderly, who have traditionally supported the LDP, largely abandoned the party in the 2007 election for the
In the meantime, the DPJ's ill-defined nature makes its platform, especially regarding foreign policy, vulnerable to confusion. And the DPJ has also opened itself up to criticism regarding its policies toward
Still, the DPJ wants closer relations with other Asian countries. Hatoyama has argued for establishing a regional currency union in
This is an especially ambitious agenda in a time of especially meager means. Japan has become dangerously marginalized diplomatically. It will soon be replaced by
The DPJ will also have to avoid various pitfalls. It must resist favoring policies that cater to the public. The DPJ has a reputation for speaking boldly about cutting waste in government to pay for new initiatives. But these savings are unlikely to make up for new expenditures, and the global financial market will severely test
Changes Comes to Japan but How Much
Few recognize how historic the DPJ victory really is. Japan's Liberal Democratic Party had held power for so long that the world had come to know it as 'the ruling LDP.' But as elections approached, Japanese voters told pollsters that the party had not responded forcefully to the country's recession. LDP approval ratings had been circling the drain for months. Only the scale of the DPJ's landslide win caught anyone by surprise
Letter From Tokyo: New Regime, New Relationship
Kent E. Calder
The DPJ now holds nearly two-thirds of the 480 seats in the Japanese Diet's powerful lower house, which approves budgets, initiates most legislation, and selects the prime minister. Given such dominance, the party, however fractious, will likely remain in power for at least the four years of its new parliamentary mandate -- influencing the country's political-economic landscape during a crucial period of transition in East Asian affairs, and potentially in U.S.-Japanese relations as well.
The landslide election of Japan's Democratic Party in last weekend's parliamentary vote parallels the election of Barack Obama to the American presidency last November. In both cases opposition parties long out of power (in the Japanese case, all but totally excluded from national power during the six decades of the postwar Japanese government's existence) have been elected at a time of crisis to change the nation's policy.
(c) 2009 BY THE COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES.