Editorial: It's time Japan's main opposition moved away from 'either-or' approach
The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) has launched its new leadership team, amid the threat to the party's position as the main opposition force in the Japanese Diet after its defeat in the July House of Councillors election.
The new lineup, however, makes us wonder whether the CDP's sense of crisis can reach the public. It gives the impression that, instead of the party trying to recover lost momentum, it's struggling even just to conserve itself.
CDP leader Kenta Izumi has remained in his post, though there had been some within the party saying he should step down to take responsibility for the upper house election loss. Long-serving members have been appointed to new party executive positions, including Katsuya Okada who has been named secretary-general. Such appointments suggest that the CDP prioritized uniting the party.
In last fall's personnel shuffle, Izumi appointed six women to the party's 12 leadership positions, attempting to show the public what a political party with gender equality looks like.
In the latest round of appointments, however, only two executives including secretary-general-turned-executive deputy president Chinami Nishimura are women. The party has already pulled back from its ideology.
Furthermore, the CDP still appears unsettled on what kind of opposition force it aspires to be. The party has constantly been swaying between confronting the ruling coalition and a more "proposal-based" approach, in which it focuses on sketching out alternative policies.
When it takes the more confrontational approach, the CDP is enthusiastic about cooperating with the Japanese Communist Party (JCP). In contrast, the party becomes more cautious about working with the JCP when pursuing the proposal-based approach. The CDP's unstable focus has directly contributed to this kind of intra-party conflict.
Isn't it high time that the CDP leave these "either-or" tactics behind?
Izumi, who has been publicly advocating for the party to go the proposal-based route, has been criticized from within and without his own party that the CDP has become "soft" on the government.
The fact that Jun Azumi, who is once again the CDP's Diet affairs committee chief, has openly said the party is going to take a more confrontational approach is a sign that the CDP is swinging back from Izumi's preferred tactics.
But if it continues to sway this way and then that every time there is a personnel shuffle, the party will not win the people's trust.
An opposition party must first and foremost keep the government in check. At the same time, as long as it aspires to become the government one day, the party cannot avoid the work to propose policy measures to the public. In other words, both types of approach -- confrontational and proposal-based -- are necessary.
The focus for the time being is on issues surrounding the relationship between Japan's political world and the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification religious group (formerly the Unification Church). That being said, Okada, who has become the party's central pillar, came forward to say he has been interviewed by the church-affiliated Sekai Nippo newspaper. How will the CDP then be able to point fingers at the ruling Liberal Democratic Party? The opposition party's stance is already in question.
The CDP is planning to bring back the "next Cabinet" framework, a shadow cabinet-building initiative set up by CDP predecessor the Democratic Party of Japan. The CDP needs to continuously present a future vision for Japan as an alternative to the current administration.