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Democratic Party (DP) / Minshin-To

Over the last several years, Japan has seen a panoply of new political parties appearing and evaporating. On 27 March 2016, this trend culminated in the launching of Minshin-To (Democratic Party, DP), which consolidated the Minshu-To (Democratic Party of Japan, DPJ) and Ishin no-To (Japan Innovation Party).

Amid low public expectations, Japans newest and largest opposition party conducted its inauguration ceremony 27 March 2016, vowing to dethrone Prime Minister Shinzo Abes ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The formation of the Democratic Party, born from the merger of the Democratic Party of Japan and Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party), represented the culmination of opposition efforts to unite against the LDP-Komeito ruling coalition.

The partys platform, however, was basically the same as the former DPJs in terms of political philosophy and policies. The new policy platform suggested a lack of novelty, as well. It smacked strongly of the DPJs traditional philosophy and repeats a raft of well-known policies, including the need to protect democracy, boost diversity, contribute to world peace and promote prosperity. As for the Constitution, the platform includes the former DPJs vaguely phrased pledge to envisage a future-oriented constitution together with the public. The center-left DPJ was long split by right-leaning lawmakers calling for revising the war-renouncing Constitution, and left-leaning members who oppose the move.

The DP boasts 156 seats combined in both the upper and lower chambers, but that is still far short of the number held by the ruling coalition, which has a two-thirds majority in the 475-seat Lower House and a majority in 242-seat Upper House. The DPs Japanese name is Minshin To, which can be literally translated as Democratic Progressive Party. The rebranding ended the nearly 20-year history of the Minshuto, or the DPJ.

The lack of freshness apparently translated into lackluster public expectations, with an opinion poll by Fuji News Network showed 68.6 percent of the public unimpressed by the merger. Whether the opposition force can attract more voters remained to be seen.

The Head of the newly formed Democratic Party (DP), Katsuya Okada, said that his party wants to field candidates numbering at least the majority of seats in the House of Representatives in the next general election.

The DPs party leadership contributes a great deal to the lack of enthusiasm. The new partys leadership consists predominantly of former DPJ senior party leaders, reflecting the respective size of the two parties. Katsuya Okada, the former DPJ president, was elected to be DPs president. Yukio Edano, former Chief Cabinet Secretary between 2010-2012 under DPJ Prime Minister Naoto Kan, assumed the position of DP Secretary-General. Overall, with the exception of Shiori Yamao, whose fame dramatically rose through her tough questions to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about the shortage of childcare facilities in Japan, the DPs leadership positions are occupied by the familiar old facesmaking the DPs fresh start as a tough-sell from the get-go.

The lack of a clear goal for the DP beyond Seiken kotai (change of government) also likely aggravates public disappointment. In post-Cold War Japanese politics, Japanese voters have been twice disappointed by emerging opposition parties that drove the ruling Liberal Democratic Party out of power by insisting that Japan needs a change of government. The first time was in 1993, when an eight-party coalition that rallied behind Morihiro Hosokawa of Nihon Shin-To (Japan New Party) won a majority in the Lower House with the campaign slogan of responsible reform. The second time was 2009 when the DPJ, led by Yukio Hatoyama, won a majority in the Lower House.

Both times, after taking the government, the opposition force showed a lack of ability to govern.

The head of Japan's main opposition party said he felt responsible for its failure to stop the ruling coalition from securing a majority of the contested seats in the election 10 July 2016. Democratic Party President Katsuya Okada said that though the party is recovering from its crushing defeat in the Upper House election of 3 years earlier, it hadn't completed the process. Okada said he would fulfill his responsibilities by remaining in his post until the end of his term in September 2016. He said he would examine various factors before he decides what to do after September.

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Page last modified: 06-07-2021 16:52:17 ZULU