Friday, April 01, 2016

Some Nice Things About the Minshinto

This past weekend the Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) and the Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party) merged, forming a new named party, the Minshinto (which in English could be "the Democratic Progressive Party”but in order to avoid confusion with the Taiwan ruling party of the same name is being called the "Democratic Party"). The so far mild public reaction to the event has prompted the small English language Japan commentariat to offer only a tiny burst of mostly negative reviews. Yuki Tatsumi at Stimson is the most scathing, dismissing the new party as merely the old party, with all the same negatives as before (Link1). Tobias Harris, writing for the Sasakawa Foundation, is a bit nicer but still dwells upon the lack so far of a positive public reaction to the new party’s formation. (Link2)

As hard as it may be to believe, there are some nice things one can say about the Minshinto.

1) DP leader Okada Katsuya headed off a potentially catastrophic split of his own party prior to a House of Councillors election. DP conservatives/Matsushita Seikei products (often both) like Maehara Seiji, Nagashima Akihisa and Hosono Goshi are unhappy at the Okada secretariat's steps toward electoral collaboration with the Japan Communist Party. They have been threatening to leave, joining members of the rump Ishin no To in a new conservative opposition party. With brought their JIP conservative buddies now in their party, the DP conservatives are less likely to depart. The price for this unity was accepting a stupid name change.

2) Japan's largest opposition party got larger, not smaller. That alone is something. DP has 96 seats in the House of Representatives; 60 seats in the House of Councillors. Not bad.

3) The party secretariat is the DPJ's secretariat with a few tweaks. Tatsumi sees reappointment of the DPJ leadership as a weakness, with too few new faces to generate excitement (the one new face in the bunch, attack dog Policy Research Chair YAMAO Shiori, has been slapped back with a financial scandal). One could also turn the analysis around and see a merger where one team's members kept all the important posts and the other team's members, including some with titanic egos (Eda Kenji) got essentially nothing as a pretty sweet deal for that first team.
OKADA Katsuya (DPJ)

Acting Representatives
EDA Kenji (JIP)


Policy Research Chair
YAMAO Shiori (DPJ)

Elections Council Chair
GEMBA Koichiro (DPJ)

Diet Affairs Council Chair

House of Councillors Chair
4) With the Will They/Won't They/Why Don't They phase completed, the opposition can now turn to the important business of coordinating Diet and electoral actions against the still immensely powerful but increasingly less likable Liberal Democratic Party of Abe Shinzo.