A Referendum for Japan
Image Credit: Office of the Prime Minister: Japan

A Referendum for Japan


Japan’s politicians have been released from legislative deliberations, and are rushing to prepare for the next Lower House election, scheduled for December 16. The media is in hot pursuit as politicians change allegiances and new parties emerge and join forces against Japan’s old legislative guard. There is a palpable frenzy of criticism against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his much maligned ruling party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). But to think this election is just a referendum against the DPJ misses the point. This election will shape Japan’s choices for years to come.

Ever since the DPJ came into power, the effort to force it back into an election has driven opposition parties, most notably the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Several rounds of no-confidence votes were put forward in the Diet, one purportedly a deal between the DPJ’s Ichiro Ozawa and then LDP president Sadakazu Tanigaki. Efforts to forge a policy consensus between the DPJ and the LDP seemed destined to fail, as electoral ambitions colored the policy deliberations more thoroughly than the pros and cons of policy options.

Today’s excitement is enjoyed only by the politicians. Personal loyalties are being tested, and individual politicians, first and foremost within Prime Minister Noda’s own party, are leaving their old parties and saddling up with new partners in preparation for this next election. The notion that members of the DPJ and the LDP, not all that far apart in their interests and sentiments, could forge another round of political realignment is again being put forward as the logical outcome of political change. The erosion of the single party dominance of the LDP in the 1990s is lamented as part of Japan’s political problem, and thus the solution is simply to build a new party that will once again bring the calm and stately management of government back in a new guise.

But watching the currents of politics in Tokyo these days, I find this idea of a grand coalition hard to grasp. First of all, this idea seems to overlook the fact that the DPJ itself was a realignment of this type, a forging of a coalition among those who wanted to put forward a viable political party that could contest the LDP’s longstanding grip on power. The coalition that emerged as the DPJ was hard to manage, however, once the party took power. Second, the erosion in DPJ membership, most notably the decision by Ozawa and his followers to leave the party in July, may have strengthened the DPJ rather than weakened it. Those who remain—such as Noda, Katsuya Okada, Koichiro Genba, Seiji Maehara, Yukio Edano, Motohisa Furukawa, and Goshi Hosono to name just a few—are staunchly reformist in their beliefs, and they have considerable experience in government. At a time when the party seems increasingly defined by their leadership, I find it hard to believe that they will want to merge with the LDP.

December 14, 2012 at 09:23

I think TD needs a forum specifically for nationalistic rants – that way it doesn't spill out and dominate the comment section of every article.

December 14, 2012 at 09:11

100% agree – it's hard read most of these comments because I feel like they are attacking one side or another. Not sure why The Diplomat attracts some of the most racist, nationalistic people out there.

December 14, 2012 at 09:03

Very much enjoyed this comment. You know, I'm a white American liberal who never tries to suggest that my culture or identity is superior to any others – but to read comments like John-chan's really pisses me off.
Western society has made mistakes, sure, but that doesn't mean that westerners don't have a lot to be proud of. We value *individual rights, justice, rule of law; – that is a lot to be proud of and I'm tired of hearing Chinese people be critical of America and Europeans as tho we are old new and doing everything wrong.
Perhaps the reason that we are developed, stable economies with fair labor practices should count for something? Or maybe the fact that de-facto slave labor in "new-news" countries like China is the primary reason for the lower job market stability of the last 5 years.

December 2, 2012 at 14:33

ACT is right, except there are lies and smear spread on all sides by some bloggers, but not all. John Chan you can't entirely prove that everything is lies and smears aimed at China, sometimes there is. But in most of these cases the comments are made by people who aren't genuinely putting forward an honest and thought out point of view, they are just trying to make you mad just for fun and you take the bait.
Having said that, you John Chan have gone off the rails with some of your comments, In the past you have made comments about Australia and I would like to remind you that it was Australian troops in China, fighting alongside Chinese, to protect China from a Japanese invasion during WW2. That however is not the point I am making, the point is that both Chinese and Australians, as well as British, New Zealand perhaps Americans (Not entirely sure if America had any involvement in the war at this stage let alone if they raised a hand for China's defence) suffered in Japanese POW camps atrocities commited by Japanese commanders of these camps. Now that is a small number of people, it does not reflect the country as a whole. And since their defeat as ACT has said, Japan has not been involved in any such acts of violence since.
We hear alot of bad things happening with China, committed by a group of people, this does shape our outside views of your country as a whole, but that doesn't mean we treat it like if one person is like that, the whole country is like that. And yes you did raise a good point that you are sharing the point of view from Chinese eyes, but at the end of the day we are all blogging on here talking about our views on what we read on here when the honest truth of the matter is what we read here is only scratching the surface of the true reality of what is happening, none of us are qualified to have a realistic opinion because we don't have all the information. So just relax mate, try not to let the trolls get to you, and don't think the world is out to get you, because it really isn't… unless you live in Australia, because mother nature really is out to get you and has an armory to do the job.

November 30, 2012 at 14:37

Isn't this supposed to be a discussion on the upcoming election and opportunity for reform in Japan. I'm amazed at how everything always descends into a cock fight between rednecks and CPC mouth pieces on this site

November 30, 2012 at 06:29

Just want to remind you that 'All American national debts are denominated in DOLLAR, its own CURRENCY. Period'. BTW, do you know that China's real debt-to- GDP ratio currently is  from  96% ($5.8 trillions) — 180%, in comparison with 115%, Greece, 227%, Japan & 101%, US? There's a big difference b/w the US & China that  you need to know ' By tradition, all American political & economic crises are soluble whereas all Chinese political or economic ones are  really  hard to find/ come up with  a solution.' You will  see the  fiscal cliff be surely avoided or resolved  in the coming days. But  in your China it's so sad that there'll be a lot of  trouble & hard times lying ahead for its people!

November 30, 2012 at 02:49

@John Chan
to put it more succinctly, where is your proof that much of what is said here is smearing or lies aimed at China? i can even support your argument to an extent; in my research into just this, i ran across an article called "my hearsay is better than your hearsay: what really happened at tiananmen square"; as it turns out, there was no Tiananmen Square Massacre; to all evidence, the students seem to have been escorted from the square peacefully. There was, however, a Beijing massacre, where the PLA deliberately targeted rioting workers who were rioting in support of the student unions who had taken the square, and only then because those rioters started throwing molotov cocktails at tanks (www . bearcanada . com/china/letstalkabouttam . html). If you can provide evidence such as this, then perhaps more people will listen to you.
Japan: What has Japan done to you, personally, in the past 25 years? nothing? good. Alright then, so why all the hatred against the great-grandchildren of the WWII soldiers who comitted these crimes? they have nothing to do with what went on!

November 30, 2012 at 02:39

@John Chan
i did want honest discussion: however, while vic and bankotsu manage to provide the occasional valuable insight or smart comment, you tend to fly off the handle; almost every single argument you make somehow descends into an argument about how "the white man's truth is not the only truth". Yes, every ethnicity has a viewpoint, and the more viewpoints we have the better for us all. However, when you type that line over, and over, and over again it doesn't feel like "you" writing; what i want to know is your feelings on the matter, your experience on the ground that shapes your perspective. Vic has done this before. So has Bankotsu; i want to know your opinion within this debate, not the opinion of the CPC whose party line you so often appear to represent.

John Chan
November 30, 2012 at 01:12

Can’t stand with each other because of their arrogance and selfishness, so that continuous breakup is the European’s trait. On the other hand Chinese values peace and harmony, therefore after thousands of years China is still around as an entity.  
With the European inherence and the mounting national debt there is a real concern that the USA is going to break up, because all states want to negate their responsibilities of the national debt in order to protect their own gains. So please watching out the cliff in front of your step instead of yelling wolf coming to the shepherd afar is more constructive.  

John Chan
November 29, 2012 at 13:07

You need to read Mathew 7 “Judging Others” in the Gospel. Committing sin then explaining it away with morality even the Gospel could not anticipate.  

John Chan
November 29, 2012 at 12:58

I thought you want honest discussions, it seem I was mistaken.

November 29, 2012 at 04:21

I have been a peaceful lurker of this site and its comment section for several months now and have watched John Chan and other chinese posters rant belligerently against the USA, Japan, Europe and white people the entire time.
I am merely trying to point out the blatant, painful hypocrisy that these arrogant chinese posters display on a daily basis in the comments section. It is rather appalling and painful to read them in fact. I do enjoy your posts along with JohnX, and imperium Vita's posts as well as they are often insightful and well written.
I apologize if my posts are a bit too strong in nature, but I feel it is necessary because sometimes being given a taste of your own medicine can cause you to become self reflective as well.

November 29, 2012 at 02:37

Don't blame the US for all your faults or failure.Even without the Plaza Accord, China will also surely be slipping into the lost decade like Japan before. It's China's export-led mercantilist  & investment-heavy  growth model will bring it down for good if there were no serious reforms in the coming years. Japan's rearmament ( not militarism)  is just something quite normal for any nation in the face of  security threats from  other hostile foreign countries. The breakup of current China would start right from Tibet. It's quite a shame & unacceptable for any kind of racism ( if any) in this forum!

November 29, 2012 at 02:13

@John Chan
lies eh? then why are the various nations of the ASEAN almost exclusively flocking to the US for military support?
civilized? perhaps. But that doesn't deny the fact that many comments by you, vic, and other pro-china bloggers have either blatantly warped the truth as the rest of the world (excluding north korea) knows it, or have been jingoistic and ethnocentric in the extreme; while the PRC may not have de-jure ethnocentrism, it certainly has de-facto ethnocentrism, much of which is very obvious in your many comments, Chan; calling the US "predatory" and "imperialist" is effectively throwing a tomato at the mirror considering the end goal of every single one of the PRC's military actions over the whole of its existence; in fact, that's what scares people in the US: it's not that China is different; its that China is exactly the same when it comes to ethnocentrism, sense of destiny, and the need to achieve predominance at almost any cost; while the PRC doesn't want global hegemony, it does want to resurrect its old tributary empire (which, if you carefully examine China's recent history, is effectively the meaning behind "righting historical wrongs").
"Fascist Japan"
need i remind you, once again, that the generation that fought that war is almost entirely dead; visiting the shrine to japanese war-dead is no different that a US president visiting Arlington Cemetery; the Japanese you hate so passionately have not espoused war for approximately 70 years now, and i would hardly call your nation's reaction to Japan forcing the status quo "civilized"; not when your government leads protestors around using plainclothes police to deliberately hunt down japanese citizens in China and torch their establishments. If you need further proof, look at the reaction of the Japanese public when the SDF was deployed as part of the US alliance during the invasion of Iraq in 2003: they wanted their forces out of there, post-haste. What you see as "fascist japan" is a deliberate focus on Japanese atrocities–despite the fact that the government that committed them is now 67 years gone–by your government to justify your government's returning the favor with interest when it has the strength to do so; this is not intended to make light of the horrors that were inflicted upon your people by them, but the grandsons and great-grandsons should not have to suffer for the crimes of their ancestors, not when no less than 7 different heads of state and other government officials have formally apologized to your own.

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