Split of Ishin no Kai must lead to policy-based opposition realignment
Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party)—the party that has so far been at the core of the so-called third force in the Diet—will soon be split in two.
Given the deepening intraparty schism over how it should address the challenge of realigning the opposition camp and handle basic policy affairs, the breakup of Ishin no Kai should be seen as a natural consequence of the course of things.
In a meeting on Wednesday, party coleaders Shintaro Ishihara and Toru Hashimoto agreed to split Ishin no Kai. Following the breakup, Ishin no Kai members will likely form new parties that separately center around Ishihara and Hashimoto.
What triggered the split was the issue of a party merger—an idea initiated by Hashimoto—with minor opposition party Yui no To.
Ishihara demanded that an agreement on the “creation of a new Constitution truly based on the will of the people” be explicitly incorporated into a policy platform that would be adopted in the merger of the two parties. Yui no To leader Kenji Eda, however, opposed Ishihara’s demand, which Eda pointed out could hamper moves for rallying a broad range of opposition forces. The two parties’ merger consultations therefore reached a stalemate.
In a news conference after the talks with Hashimoto, Ishihara said he felt a “major, unbridgeable gap” regarding how to handle such key issues as constitutional revision and the nation’s right to collective self-defense. As Hashimoto has made the merger with Yui no To a top priority, the split of Ishin no Kai was inevitable.
Ishin no Kai was founded in September 2012 by Hashimoto and his associates. It subsequently merged with Taiyo no To (The Sunrise Party) led by Ishihara. After the merger, the party gained notable headway with Ishihara and Hashimoto as a prominent duo in the House of Representatives election in December 2012, but it fared poorly in last year’s House of Councillors election.
While Ishihara is in favor of forging ahead with nuclear power generation, Hashimoto and his followers have been steadfast in pursuing a policy of “reducing to zero” the nation’s reliance on nuclear power. There were often “east-west conflicts” over energy policies and other major issues between backers of Osaka-based Hashimoto and those supporting Ishihara and his mostly Tokyo-based allies.
The recent breakup can be said to be the price for a political marriage of convenience that placed priority on electoral tactics while disregarding policy differences.
Moves to realign the opposition parties appear likely to accelerate. Both Hashimoto and Eda have said they will jointly launch a new party as early as July to waste no time in preparing for unified local elections in spring 2015.
Hashimoto has been stressing the necessity of marshaling opposition parties to join forces against the Liberal Democratic Party. He is poised to call for part of the Democratic Party of Japan and Your Party members to join his envisaged new party.
The DPJ, for its part, is said to be unable to sit on the fence regarding the unfolding situation. In the largest opposition party, there have been voices calling for the resignation of Banri Kaieda as party head due to his lack of leadership. The split of Ishin no Kai may lend an impetus to antileadership moves within the DPJ.
Meanwhile, Ishihara is set to seek constitutional revision, with an eye on eventually working in tandem with the LDP. He is also expected to probe for opportunities to cooperate with Your Party, whose security policy is similar to Ishihara’s.
In making efforts to realign the opposition camp, it is of key importance to ensure that political ideals and key policies are shared among the parties involved.
Even after its split, Ishin no Kai should never be neglectful of its role as a “responsible opposition party,” or a party in opposition that is prepared to extend cooperation to the ruling camp on policies that are considered appropriate.
In the Diet, the David and Goliath scenario has remained unchanged, with the LDP dominating since the upper house election in summer 2013.
The opposition parties have failed to ramp up their presence.
The opposition camp must play its role of maintaining tension in the political arena by adequately pointing out problematic issues with policies being steered by the government and the ruling parties.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 30, 2014)