Offering persuasive policies essential for opposition forces to become viable

If many weak opposition parties continue to exist in the Diet, the prospect of a change of government will never emerge, and the reason for their very existence will be called into question.

In the House of Councillors election this month, with 125 seats contested, opposition forces won only 49 seats, a little less than 40%.

It can be said that there were several reasons behind the election results. For example, in many of the 32 constituencies where only one seat was up for grabs, which played a decisive role in the election outcome, cooperation between opposition parties failed and no single party emerged that could become a nucleus of unified opposition against the ruling bloc.

Opposition parties play important roles by reflecting in national politics a wide range of public opinions that are not embraced by the ruling bloc, as well as closely monitoring the government.

If opposition parties remain sluggish and a sense of tension is lost in the Diet, it could lower the quality of politics as a whole.

Steady efforts will be essential to expand support for opposition parties, through such measures as developing policymaking skills and proposing realistic policies, and strengthening their local organizations and solidifying the foundation of their parties.

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, suffered a defeat in last year’s House of Representatives election and also lost seats this time, giving the impression that the party’s strength is in decline. Party leader Kenta Izumi emphasized his intention to remain in his post, saying, “I want to take the election results seriously and make efforts to rebuild the party.”

Under the slogan of “livelihood security,” the CDPJ called for a temporary cut in the consumption tax rate and the introduction of additional pension benefits, among other proposals. However, as the financial resources to back up such plans were left vague, it can be said that voters perceived a lack of realism.

Ideological confrontation between conservative and reformist forces disappeared after the end of the Cold War, and we are now in an era when parties are tested on the superiority of their approach to various issues. The CDPJ may have failed to determine the right position for the party to adopt because it did not take this changing situation into consideration.

How will Japan deal with such challenges as a declining population, electricity shortages and a deteriorating security environment? Opposition parties should draw up a vision of their ideal future image of the country and clarify the road map and grounds for its realization.

The administration of the former Democratic Party of Japan, a forerunner of the CDPJ and the Democratic Party for the People, caused political chaos and lost power to the Liberal Democratic Party in 2012. There is still a lingering sense of disappointment among the people. To regain public confidence, the CDPJ needs to present convincing policies.

It is believed that Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) greatly increased its seats thanks to the high hopes of people who are not satisfied with old-style opposition parties. But the party could not reach the position of being the largest opposition party. Party leader Ichiro Matsui, who was involved in the establishment of the party, expressed his intention to step down from the post. Whether the next party leader will be able to establish his or her leadership is a key question.

In this upper house election, a political party called Sanseito, which sought support by making active use of the internet, won a seat. The support for a minor party that has taken an extreme stance may indicate distrust toward existing parties that cannot overcome the sense of stagnation that envelops Japan.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 14, 2022)