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New Parties Fight Japan's Prime Minister Koizumi

Monday, August 22, 2005 Posted: 09:08 PM JST

Within a week three brand new parties have seen the light in Japan. Former heavyweights of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party last Wednesday announced the formation of the Kokumin Shinto party (People's New Party). Yesterday the Shinto Nippon (New Party Japan) was born. Convicted bribe-taker and former LDP deputy chief cabinet secretary Muneo Suzuki has formed Hokkaido-based Shinto Daichi (New Party Mother Earth).

All these parties are protesting against Koizumi's postal privatization policy. The Kokumin Shinto party basically consists of LDP rebels who were shunted out and are mad as can be at Koizumi. If anything this appears to be more of a pride thing than that they have alternative plans. The party is headed by former House of Representatives Speaker Tamisuke Watanuki and consists of four former members of the LDP and one from the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

They include former LDP policy affairs chief Shizuka Kamei, ex-National Land Agency Director General Hisaoki Kamei and Kensei Hasegawa of the House of Councilors. Upper House lawmaker Hideaki Tamura, previously of the Democratic Party of Japan, also joined.

The Shinto Nippon should be taken quite a bit more seriously as it is lead by Nagano Governor and political maverick Yasuo Tanaka. Tanaka has vowed to change Japan from Nagano and in the past few years he has booked several successes. Government expenses in Nagano Prefecture have nose dived while the Governor was also able to have the building of a new dam cancelled. The first time in Japan that a planned dam has been cancelled.

The party has four Diet members, all of whom voted against Koizumi's postal privatization program: Lower House members Koki Kobayashi, Takashi Aoyama and Makoto Taki and Upper House member Hiroyuki Arai. All are former LDP members.

Tanaka says that he will remain governor of Nagano. He has no intention of running for a seat in the Lower House election of September 11. "We have gathered with a strong determination to save Japan and to protect the public and change the mind-set in Kasumigaseki (Japan's political center in Tokyo)," Tanaka said Sunday.

While Kokumin Shinto members represent mostly rural farming regions, Shinto Nippon members represent urban voters. Additionally, Tanaka is immensely popular and seen as a true and dependable reformer. It seemed therefore strange that he would align himself with lawmakers who voted against postal reforms. However, Tanaka says that he is not against postal reform, but that Koizumi's plans lack substance and reality. While Koizumi is Prime Minister, he argues fervently, Japan will never be able to truly reform.

Hokkaido-based Shinto Daichi's Muneo Suzuki is a convict currently out on bail. But Suzuki controls a formidable vote-gathering machine. In last year's House of Councilors poll he garnered nearly 480,000 votes. He has recruited several popular candidates like former Olympic ski-jumper Masahiro Akimoto, and Kaori Tahara, a member of Hokkaido's indigenous Ainu community. New Party Mother Earth is not really a big contender, but will surely cost the LDP many votes in Hokkaido, traditionally an LDP stronghold.

All in all, quite an exciting election campaign coming up.

Keywords: national_news

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
Stone Bridge Press

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