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2014年8月 2日 (土)

海江田民主党 甘い総括で再建できるのか

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ineffectual Kaieda remains in charge of DPJ thanks to disunited opponents
海江田民主党 甘い総括で再建できるのか

It was a tepid assessment devoid of a sense of urgency over faltering party strength. The fact that the party head is allowed to stay in office even under such circumstances graphically reveals the party’s current state of affairs.

The Democratic Party of Japan held a meeting on Thursday with most of the party’s Diet members attending to make an overall assessment of the way DPJ President Banri Kaieda ran the largest opposition party in the past year. The evaluation was called for as he remained at the helm of the party after its humiliating defeat in the House of Councillors election last summer by making a commitment to “produce tangible, positive results within one year.”

At the outset of the meeting, Kaieda expressed his intention to stay on in the top post of the DPJ, saying, “Approval ratings for the Abe Cabinet have been on the wane, and what matters most for us is whether our party is able to act effectively in defense of people who feel unease and dissatisfaction.”

Regarding the “tangible results” he committed himself to, Kaieda cited such things as his success in having kept party unity intact. But we feel rather skeptical about the wisdom of using such reasons to justify his staying on as party president.

Even though he appears to have been intent on rebuilding the party in the past year, Kaieda has been hardly able to make his presence felt in the political area because of his feeble ability to come out with strong political messages. Party approval ratings have shown public support for the DPJ hovering at less than 10 percent, compared to the 30 percent to 40 percent levels for the Liberal Democratic Party.

In the by-election of the House of Representatives Kagoshima Constituency No. 2 in April, the first contest for a Diet seat after the raising of the consumption tax, the candidate backed by the DPJ was defeated. The triumph of a former DPJ lower house member in the gubernatorial election in the middle of last month in Shiga Prefecture seemed to be attributable mainly to the tactic of keeping the party’s backing as inconspicuous as possible.

Bleak future prospects

Within the DPJ, such heavyweights as the party’s former Vice President Katsuya Okada demanded publicly that the party’s presidential election, scheduled for September next year, be held earlier, which Kaieda made a point of turning down.

Party rules of the LDP include “recall provisions” that stipulate holding a presidential election if and when a majority of the party’s Diet members and representatives of its prefectural chapters call for one. The DPJ, however, has no such rule, and so long as Kaieda refuses to hold a party election, there can be no party presidential contest before his term of office expires.

Among the factors behind Kaieda’s strong attitude is apparently the fact that those DPJ lawmakers who oppose his leadership are in disarray over who should succeed him, so that moves to oust Kaieda from the top party post have failed to gain impetus.

The DPJ’s future prospects, however, remain bleak. The rift has been deep between the Kaieda leadership, which has been eager to strengthen ties to trade unions, and conservative members who wish to see the DPJ break its dependence on unions.

Kaieda is poised to reshuffle the lineup of party executives as early as September, and it is likely that he will have hard time trying to build party unity as anti-Kaieda sentiment continues to smolder.

The party has said its task of formulating a set of policies geared for unified local elections next spring will soon be in full swing. Although the party says it will make a review of the DPJ electoral platform for the 2009 general election, which comprised many unrealistic and pandering handout policies, before the end of the year, the pace of such review seems to have been extremely slow.

The DPJ has also continued shelving discussions within the party on pros and cons concerning the exercise of Japan’s right of collective self-defense.

So long as it fails to put an end to its propensity to postpone conclusions on key issues merely to prevent a split in the party, the DPJ will be unable to fulfill its responsibility as the No. 1 opposition party and will have no prospects for regaining strength.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 1, 2014)


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