According to mass media in Japan, this election is supposed to open the new period of the two-party system. Editorials often state that the Japanese political party system has matured into the stage where a change of government is possible, making flattering comments on the rapid growth of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), as if the party is about to form the next government. But who is going to benefit from the dominance of those two parties in the Diet?
Two Parties in Same Course of Constitution Amendment
Two major rival daily newspapers, The Asahi Shimbun and The Yomiuri Shimbun, share the same view. The "liberal" Asahi dated November 10, 2003 says, "A new period of the two-party system is coming," talking about "a good prospect for a change of regime," while the conservative Yomiuri of the same date refers to a "prologue to the 2003 Political Framework." "Two-Party System" seems to be the key word to anybody who is interested in politics at least.
Both Asahi and Yomiuri dailies agree that it is good to have the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and DPJ dominate the Diet, dividing the political power of the Lower House almost by half. They even carried out opinion polls with the results, "two-party system favored by 70% of the public" (Asahi dated Nov.12) and "69% answering two-party system is desirable." (Yomiuri dated Nov.12)
Thus, Japanese mass media are leading the public opinion in the direction of the two-party system in the future. They try to convince the Japanese public that the two-party system is good for Japan of today and tomorrow. The system, they say, allows the parties to take turns in exercising the power of the government by letting the LDP and DPJ compete each other. Is the two-party system really desirable?
The ambiguous term "two-political-party system" would raise high expectation among the Japanese people probably because they anticipate a regime change, in other words, breakdown of the one-party rule of the LDP. However, if we compare the policies of the two parties, both pursue the same line. Both agree to deploy Self-Defense Forces troops overseas and amend the Peace Constitution. Both are ready to abandon the weak by neo-liberal structural reforms. Both claim that they are the original one who started the structural reform first.
After all, there is no substantial difference between the LDP and DPJ. If any at all, it is the difference between Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola. Even if a change of power takes place, the basic policy line for ammending the Constitution and propelling the strctural reform would remain the same to carry on.
Public Opinion Neglected Increasingly
This is what the big business circle calls "political stability." Japanese Business Federation Chairman OKUDA Hiroshi says, "I can see that an era of two-party system is finally coming to Japan," talking highly of an upswing of the DPJ. He has also revealed his idea that the DPJ is included in the list of political parties, to which they would contribute the business money from the next year on.
To the business world, it does not matter which party will take power as long as the structural reform, the constitutional change and the deployment of SDF troops abroad, all which they desire, would be materialized. The big businesses need a substitute party to grow big enough in case the LDP should fall.
In conclusion, the two-party-system is "good" for business but not for voters in Japan. This is another name for the creation of a new system for the constitutional amendment and capitalist globalization.
If we have no option other than the LDP and DPJ, those who want neither of them have no place to go. Abatement of the public opinion is already obvious, in the form of decline in the voter turnout.
The voter turnout of the single-seat constituencies in the general election broke the record down to 59.86% at the national average. 22 prefectures hit the lowest voting rate since the end of World War II. A voter is quoted by Nov.10 Daily Sports as saying, "They offer only two menus. And two dishes looked very much alike. The one I had before is removed from the menu. They say,'Please take one.' But I don't know what to do." This illustrates the puzzlement of the constituents forced to choose between the two unattractive parties.
Growing Objection to SDF Deployment Abroad
Massive campaign for the two-party system has given the voters an illusion that they were forced to choose either LDP or DPJ. Mainstream media also gave the impression that if you do not belong to either one of them, you are powerless.
Of course, it is not right. For example, take a look at the increasing oppositions against the SDF deployment to Iraq among the public. Regrettably, by clever maneuvering of the LDP and the accommodating mass media, it has never made an issue to be discussed during the election. However, the voice against the SDF dispatch has been growing larger and larger as the resistance in Iraq gets intensified more and more.
According to a telephone poll by Nippon Television Network from November 14 to 16, the ratio of people who do not support the SDF dispatch to Iraq reached 70.9%, a 22.3 point increase from the previous poll in August.
It is clear that the Japanese people do not trust the government who asserts that Japan needs to deploy SDF troops to Iraq. The government has had no choice other than to postpone the conclusion of the basic plan for SDF dispatch, with the result that the promise of deployment before the end of the year would not be kept.
The Koizumi administration fears the rise of public sentiment against the SDF deployment. We need to strengthen people's voice of of no deployment of SDF troops to Iraq or any other place. We need to put pressure on the Diet strong enough to change the policy which has never been discussed in full in the general election. (M)