Nippon Ishin’s Party Convention: Constructive Policies Must Be Proposed

One reason that Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) has been lacking momentum is likely the various scandals it has been involved in. Also, the party has undeniably lost its freshness, as it has simply been advocating reform.

The key to the fate of the party will certainly be whether it is able to change its policies, which strongly tend to cater to the masses.

Ishin has held a party convention and adopted a new action policy. Regarding the next House of Representatives election, the new policy calls for the ruling parties to be corralled into holding less than a majority in the lower house, in addition to the existing goal of Ishin becoming the largest opposition party.

Last year, Ishin leader Nobuyuki Baba said the party could be “a second Liberal Democratic Party,” indicating that it could cooperate with the LDP. The goal of depriving the ruling parties of the majority appears to be aimed at distancing Ishin from the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, which has lost support due to the ongoing political funding scandal.

Ishin increased its number of local assembly members, mayors and governors in last year’s unified local elections. In nationwide opinion surveys conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun, its approval ratings often exceeded that of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), reaching 9% in July last year.

Since then, however, there has been a series of incidents of power harassment and sexual harassment by local assembly members belonging to Ishin. It was also discovered that a lower house member elected from Osaka Prefecture had allowed local city assembly members to serve concurrently as his state-funded secretaries without the proper notification.

When it was decided to hold the Osaka-Kansai Expo in Osaka, Ishin touted the news as an achievement by the party, but when the construction costs were found to be ballooning and the public criticized it, the party seemed to pass the buck to the government. “The Expo is a national event,” Baba said.

Ishin’s most recent approval rating has dropped to 5%. There is now a possibility that it will sink among the opposition parties.

Ishin touts “self-sacrificing reforms” as its slogan and calls for a 30% reduction in the number of Diet seats, but this could lead to a rejection of representative democracy, in which voters entrust their representatives with politics.

Its policy toward a small government with aims such as a 20% reduction in the number of civil servants has some people concerned about the ability to respond to crises, such as large-scale disasters and the spread of infectious diseases.

It is important for Ishin to present realistic, constructive policies in such fields as social security and national security, and to make straightforward appeals.

One of the focal points of the next lower house election will be whether opposition parties form a united front.

The CDPJ has proposed the concept of a “mission-oriented cabinet” in which opposition parties would work together on each policy matter, but this does not conjure up images of a coalition. Ishin and the Democratic Party for the People have responded negatively to the concept.

Prospective candidates from CDPJ and Ishin overlap in about 100 of the 289 single-seat constituencies of the lower house elections.

Rivalry among weak forces is not likely to draw votes. It is important for each party to appeal to voters by coming up with attractive, persuasive policies and gaining strength.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 26, 2024)