Monday, February 2, 2009

Reform We Can Use: Reject Our Calcified Two-Party System

Break Away from Koizumi-Style Reforms
Lately there has been a plethora of Koizumi disciples in the mass media arguing that his reforms should be continued. But the Japanese people are not interested in returning to Koizumi-style reforms. I travel all over Japan on a daily basis delivering lectures and chatting with leaders in the business, government and political realms as well as with regular citizens. Almost no one supports Koizumi's approach these days. People in the provinces believe his reforms are tearing at the fabric of their social safety net. The mass media does not reflect the feelings of the people.

Bitter Words for the Premier; Disappointment for the DPJ
On January 18, both the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan began party conventions to solidify their stances in hopes of winning the coming general election. Yet a majority of the Japanese showed no interest in either party. Public support for Prime Minister Taro Aso has withered. Most people can't wait for him to step down. They are disappointed with the ruling party for self-destructing under internal turmoil and losing its ability to govern.

The opposition DPJ, on the other hand, is feeling refreshed and uniting behind party leader Ichiro Ozawa as public opinion surveys indicate a strong DPJ victory ahead. But the Japanese people have been disappointed in the party's convention. Most people want to know just what an Ozawa government would do once in power, but Ozawa remains tight-lipped. How will he respond to the war in Afghanistan? Will he run Japan's economy based on the free-market ideology embraced by the Republican Party in the US or take the New Deal approach? Or will he take a modified approach as seen in European societies? Everything is left vague.

Escaping Dictatorial Politics; Moving Toward a Third Way
The two-party system in Japan is calcifying. The ruling coalition of the LDP and New Komeito takes a top-down, despotic approach. The DPJ is a party monopolized by Ozawa, whose authority is unchallenged. It is impossible for either side to interpret the will of the people. The two-party system is cracking under the weight of two despotic parties. What is needed now is the democratization of political power and the end of lockstep party-line voting. A third way needs to be forged by the people.