Ichiro Ozawa, President
If we allow unconstitutional legislation to exist unchallenged Japan will repeat its pre-war history
The 189th ordinary Diet session ended on September 27. The Abe administration extended the Diet session by the longest period in our post-war history, and forced the enactment of security-related legislation by sheer weight of numbers. From now on, the government of the day will be able to totally ignore the basic philosophy of pacifism and international cooperation expressed in the preamble and Article 9 of the Constitution, and to take arbitrary decision to dispatch the Self Defense Forces to any kind of conflict overseas.
When politicians ignore the public to pursue their own selfish ends they invariably use similar kinds of expressions to deceive the people. Prime Minister Abe has justified the security legislation by explaining that “We will rescue Japanese citizens living abroad” and “If mines are laid in the Strait of Hormuz, closing it to shipping, Japan will be placed in a situation where her existence is threatened.”
The self-same expressions were used in the pre-war Imperial General Headquarters Announcement, which stated: “We will protect the lives of Japanese citizens” and “Manchuria and Mongolia are the life-line of the Empire of Japan”. It was following these statements that Japan plunged into war. The Abe Cabinet is using exactly the same kind of expressions to deceive the Japanese people. If they succeed in having their way over the current unconstitutional legislation based on such a mindset, then Japan may end up repeating her pre-war history.
As the past and present history of both Japan and the wider world illustrates, control by a single dominant power destroys healthy political competition, creates a government indifferent to the opinions and wishes of the people, and causes much unhappiness to the nation. The Abe administration is about to plunge down such a path once again, threatening the lives and livelihoods of the Japanese people.
Many Japanese are calling for the establishment of a credible alternative to the LDP/Komeito coalition
Democracy is a system which is designed to prevent such threats to the nation. In a parliamentary democracy, normally there is always the possibility of a change of government if the ruling party governs the nation in a way totally at odds with the promises it has made to the electorate. It is this tension that creates good governance. That is the merit of the single-seat constituency system, and the means of ensuring that democracy functions properly. However, in Japan no credible alternative to the LDP/Komeito coalition currently exists. In order to realise a change of government, it is essential for the opposition parties to form an alliance.
Although the LDP won the 2014 general election, there was no increase in the actual number of votes they gained. Moreover, this election had the lowest voter turnout of the post-war period, being a further 7% lower than the turnout at the 2012 general election, which itself was also a record low. I believe this low turnout reflects the fact that, while the electorate is dissatisfied with the LDP/Komeito coalition on a variety of fronts, they regrettably feel there is no viable alternative for them to vote for.
In other words, the majority of the electorate would still like to see the birth of an administration that would be able to properly rebuild Japan. I believe that they also feel strongly that the various opposition parties must form an alliance in order to gain power. Whether we can realise a change of government or not is dependent upon the quality of opposition cooperation.
An opposition alliance that does not aim for a change of government is just political game-playing
The main objective of opposition realignment is to take power at the next general election. That is because it is impossible for political parties to fulfill their promises to the people without taking power. If this premise is ignored, our pledges will be nothing but empty words. Shifting political mergers and break-ups that are not aiming to take power are nothing more than political game-playing.
However, if the opposition parties are to take power, they will not be able to overcome the LDP under the single-seat constituency system if they fight elections by fielding separate candidates. That much is clear from looking at the results of recent national elections. In the forthcoming House of Councillors election and general election the opposition parties must negotiate to field joint candidates in each electoral district, in order to engage in a one-to-to face off with the LDP/Komeito.
In this sense, the Japanese Communist Party’s proposal to transform the electoral policy they have followed unswervingly during the post-war era and cooperate with the other opposition parties to establish a “National Coalition Government to Repeal the War (Security) Legislation”, is a significant step toward the opposition parties waging a joint campaign. We value this decision highly.
So what is the best way to achieve an opposition alliance? It is to dissolve all the separate parties and merge them into one. However, this is not so simple to achieve in reality. So what is the best way to accomplish it? This question is the biggest issue that the opposition parties now face.
The key to a change of government is the creation of an “Olive Tree Alliance” framework
I believe that the opposition parties should fight the next House of Councillors election with a joint list of candidates, in other words forming an alliance similar to the Olive Tree coalition that won successive elections in Italy for over a decade from the mid 1990s. This concept differs fundamentally from the viewpoint that opposition cooperation amounts to only electoral cooperation and coordinating candidates. An Olive Tree alliance would require the creation of a single umbrella party for electoral purposes. Such a party would be a separate entity from existing political parties, and the candidates from each of those parties would participate in it as individuals.
Candidates would not be required to leave the party of which they are a member, nor would it be necessary to dissolve existing political parties. If electoral coordination has left an electoral district without a candidate from a particular opposition party, there is a tendency for that party’s supporters to vote for their own party in the proportional representation section of the vote, and so true opposition unity is not achieved. But under an Olive Tree alliance, the opposition would fight together in both individual districts and proportional representation districts, and a true pooling of strength would take place.
I think that the political banner under which such an opposition alliance should fight could involve agreement on a main policy or electoral issue such as “anti-LDP/Komeito” or “anti-security legislation”. There is no need for parties to engage in discussions to obtain agreement on the finer points of policy. In the Diet, if the party whip is not applied, individual Diet members from the same party are able to vote on legislation according to their own individual beliefs. In the same way, it is sufficient I believe for the opposition alliance to hold shared views on a number of issues that are of significance to the electorate.
If the opposition parties can convey their conviction to the people they will definitely respond
If next year’s House of Councillors election is fought using this method, then the opposition should be able to win virtually all the single-seat districts and if we add in proportional representation seats we should be able to take a considerable number of seats. Should we succeed the LDP will no longer be able to ride roughshod over the opposition as they did during the last Diet session.
The key to realizing this opposition alliance is for individual Diet members to have an altruistic spirit, being prepared to suppress their selfish impulses or sacrifice themselves if necessary. If we can expand our alliance in this spirit we will be able to achieve something really meaningful. But if we continue to trumpet “Me, me”, then we will not be able to accomplish anything of note.
So what do I mean by something “meaningful”? Well, we should have a shared mission and sense of responsibility that: “We must achieve better politics for the sake of the people”. We should always be conscious of this goal and suppress our personal feelings for the sake of the cause. This is nothing but commonsense, but if we can succeed in sharing this vision we will definitely be able to realise an opposition alliance.
If the opposition parties engage in the upcoming House of Councillors election campaign in this spirit of determination we should be able to demonstrate to the Japanese people that we are capable of taking power at the next general election. I believe that if the opposition parties can form a proper alliance at the next election we will soon achieve a change of government. Moreover, I am convinced that if we show we truly have the courage and conviction to work toward such a change of government, we will definitely be able to obtain the people’s trust and the way forward will become clear.