Tuesday, September 8, 2020

A big week for Japanese politics.

Japan is going to see a lot of change over the next few days. The governing LDP have selected their three leadership candidates, and will pick from among them on the 14th. Given the time zone differences between here (90 mins north of Toronto) and Japan, we should know who the new LDP leader is by 8am, or 10am at the latest. I've talked about the LDP leadership a bit already in recent posts, so lets talk about the other big change, the opposition.

As I thought at the time of the 2017 election, in the post I made about the results, the opposition would re-unite. Unlike my projection, the re-unification appears quite more 'complete' than I'd expected. Most KNT members would go on to leave and form the DPP, the Democratic Peoples Party. The CDP, Constitutional Democratic Party, would retain more seats, however. The CDP and DPP would eventually agree to sit as a single caucus in the Diet, uniting both the upper house and lower house caucuses of both parties, putting the new opposition caucus in a strong position. In December, the two parties made an agreement in principle to merge. With all the kinks worked out, the final step of the merger is taking place.

As a reminder, lets quickly go over some history. After the war, the US maintained an occupation office over Japan which had much domestic power. This ended in 1952. At the time the sitting Prime Minister of Japan was part of the Liberal Party. His successor as PM would be from the "1954 Democratic Party", which, would merge with the Liberals, to from the Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP. The LDP would govern Japan for decades. The 1990 election showed some weakness in the LDP, and various factions broke off from the party. The three main breakaway parties would form an agreement with the other 5 parties, which formed an alliance that excluded only two major parties; the LDP and the JCP (Japan Communist Party). This alliance managed to win the 1993 election. The new coalition government would fall apart, and the LDP would form a coalition with the Socialists. It was during this term the electoral system was changed to the Parallel system used today. The 1996 election was then won by the LDP. Many of the parties that had won the 1993 election would merge into the "1998 Democratic Party", which went on to become the main opposition party in Japan. The LDP would continue to rule until the 2009 election, when, for the first time since the end of the war, the party suffered a decisive defeat. The Democratic Party won a clear majority, but, proved unstable in government. In the following 2012 election, the LDP returned.

The Democrats were always keen to return to office, and in 2016, they would merge with the Innovation party to form the "2016 Democratic Party". This was, in hindsight, a bad decision. Much of the Innovation party would end up in the new Ishin party, and, the "2016 Democratic Party" itself would split in two, after agreeing to merge into Kibo. Kibo would later end up as the DPP; thus creating the DPP and CDP. 

Of the 183 members of the merging parties in either house of the Diet, 149 are joining the new party outright. The big questions that are left are simple; who will be leader, and what will the party name be? My understanding is that the two are being decided via the same vote, at the same time. 

Edano Yukio is the current/former leader of the CDP. He played a key role in creating the CDP after progressive Democratic Party members were barred from Kibo, and, unexpectedly, the CDP beat Kibo in the election to form the main opposition party. He wants the new party to retain the CDP name. 

Izumi Kenta followed Democratic Party members into Kibo, and the into the DPP. He seems to hold a position that seems potentially roughly equal to that of a house leader, or whip. He is running for leader of the merged party, and wishes it to go back to the old "Democratic Party" name. 

So far, 25 people signed the endorsement of Edano's CDP name, and 25 have signed the endorsement of Izumi's DPJ name. This leaves it a bit unclear as to which "side" will win. The CDP does seem to have an advantage in that the 34 people not joining the new party, seem to all be from the right of the spectrum. What complicates things is that the CDP name was chosen, in part, as the old DPJ name had become stained by the merger. It is thus unclear if members of the new party, many of whom were old DPJ members 5 years ago, will desire a return to the old name, or wish to keep the CDP name that only some of them supported in the last election. 

Either way, the decision on September 10th will be interesting to watch. 

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