Rising Opposition Party’s Policy Positions Tend to Be Too Populist

Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) is increasing its presence among the opposition parties. The question now is whether the party will be able to propose realistic policies in the economic and social security fields.

Ishin has held an extraordinary party convention in Osaka and decided to retain Nobuyuki Baba as its leader.

Baba said at the convention, “My next goal is for the party to attain the largest number of seats among opposition parties in the next House of Representatives elections.” After the convention, he emphasized his intention to have the party field candidates in all 289 single-seat constituencies.

As a result of the unified local elections last month, Ishin now holds over 770 posts in local governments, from municipal leaders to assembly members, surpassing the “at least 600” that the party had set as its target. In the by-election for the Wakayama Constituency No. 1 of the lower house, Ishin’s candidate seeking to win an election for the first time defeated a former Liberal Democratic Party lower house member among other candidates.

Its signature policy of “self-sacrificing reforms” can be said to have appealed to the public.

Ishin is open to discussing constitutional revision and advocates the strengthening of defense capabilities. Such assertions also seem to be gaining a certain amount of support among conservative voters.

Its policies on crucial domestic affairs, however, are not so promising.

Ishin is calling for a cut in the consumption tax. So how will financial resources for social security be secured while benefit payouts continue to rise? In its growth strategy, the party is seeking cuts to the income tax and corporate taxes.

A political party that only tries to attract voters with populist policies cannot be said to be a responsible one.

Ishin is advocating a reduction in the number of Diet seats. But is it appropriate to reduce the number of representatives for the people? The party should not lightly discuss issues related to the foundation of representative democracy solely from the perspective of cost-cutting.

Another issue for the party is to build up an organization in regions other than Kansai, its home turf. In 10 prefectures, including Aomori, Yamaguchi and Yamanashi, Ishin has no branches. With its reliance on voter sentiment trends, Ishin’s leap forward will not last long.

The position of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ) as the largest opposition party is being threatened by Ishin. In last month’s five by-elections for the Diet, all three of the CDPJ’s official candidates were defeated.

Simply pointing out gaffes and scandals involving cabinet ministers and the like makes it difficult for the party to foment hope.

Sensing a crisis over the party’s flagging strength, its young and middle-ranking Diet members have called on CDPJ leader Kenta Izumi to field more than 200 candidates in the next lower house election. These lawmakers must have harbored frustrations against party executives as the current number of individuals that the party has named to be official candidates is only about 140.

In response to such pressure within his party, Izumi announced that he would resign as its leader unless he fields more than 200 candidates and wins 150 seats in the lower house election. Izumi may have intended to show he is putting his back against the wall, but no path can be seen for him to launch his counteroffensive.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 16, 2023)