Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's dissolution of the House of Representatives for a general election comes amid chaos. The normal political order has started to fall apart, but it remains unclear where the nation will end up.
Abe's move was probably a major miscalculation. Ruling party members thought the opposition had been outmaneuvered, but a surprise attack has left Abe on the back foot.
Over time, authority produces arrogance, and wears away at people's hearts. The Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Educational Institution favoritism scandals that emerged as a side effect of the administration's long time in power brought criticism raining down on Abe, and he became for a time quite reticent. But he later seized upon confusion within the opposition Democratic Party (DP) and the North Korea situation as political opportunities, and dissolved the lower house without going through Diet debate. It was a clear manifestation of arrogance.
Indeed, politics and stratagems go hand in hand. In his excellent book "Leaders," former U.S. President Richard Nixon pointed out that leaders sometimes need brutal cruelty. But at the same time, political life is built on words. A power struggle in the absence of words, in the absence of deliberation, will splinter politics. It is the prime minister's political tactics that drew Koike's new party to the fore.
The real essence of Abe politics appears only between elections. The state secrecy law, Japan's security legislation and the so-called anti-conspiracy law all happened after Abe had first expounded economic measures as a top priority to win national elections.
If the prime minister manages to hold onto power in the October lower house election as well, then the next thing he will likely aim for between elections is revision of the Constitution -- a cherished goal of his. To achieve this with certainty, Abe will want to be elected to a third term as president of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) next fall. And to do that, he has no doubt pondered that his party will need a fifth consecutive national election victory.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with long-lived administrations in themselves. It takes time to tackle a major objective. But under this type of political realism, voters have to empathize with that objective. Politicians need the wisdom to prevent democracy from turning into mere rule by majority.
Kibo no To (Party of Hope), the political party founded this month by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, has many weaknesses. It came together through a shared desire to defeat the Abe administration, leaning on the personal popularity of Koike. But if this is achieved, one can easily imagine those inconsistencies will immediately surface.
Political parties are the engines of democracy. They have the role of translating the needs and desires of a wide body of people into political views. Regrettably, the current state of affairs wallows far below the ideal. There is no doubt that Japan's party politics has once again entered an age of major transition.
In any case, interest in the upcoming election is increasing. The selection of an administration is no longer for appearances' sake. Japan is at a crossroads. Will Abe politics continue for four more years, or will it be reset? (By Ko Koga, Chief Editorial Writer)