Foreign Policy Blogs

DPJ struggles in election

The Democratic Party of Japan fared poorly in the second round of nationwide local elections following losses in the gubernatorial and prefectural elections two weeks ago. Of the 10 municipal and ward mayoral elections in which candidates affiliated with the DPJ ran against candidates affiliated with the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, the DPJ won three and the LDP won five. One win went to a third party and votes for the mayoral contest in Tokyo’s Koto Ward will be counted Monday.

The DPJ losses appear to be due to dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Naoto Kan and the handling of the aftermath of the March 11 quake and tsunami and the subsequent nuclear crisis at Fukushima Dai-ich nuclear power plant.

People have a tendency to blame the nation’s leader for the mishandling of large disasters, which I don’t think is necessarily fair. One could blame George W. Bush for the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, or blame Barack Obama for the aftermath of the BP oil spill in the Gulf last year (although the same person probably wouldn’t blame both leaders for the respective disasters). However, there are so many variables that are out of the hands of the nation’s leader that it is unfair to blame the leader for the handling of large disasters. But since presidents and prime ministers are the figureheads of their nations, they are the easiest scapegoats for public sentiment.

Another reason I don’t think the DPJ deserves blame for the mishandling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis is that amakudari (government officials who take post-retirement jobs related to their former fields in the private sector) from the LDP were largely responsible for the conflicts of interest that led to the crisis in the first place. The only reason the LDP is not bearing their much-deserved brunt of the criticism is because they aren’t the ruling party at the moment.

One problem with Japan’s “democracy” is that the political parties don’t have well-defined platforms. The only thing that really distinguishes the political parties is their opposition to other parties. Compared to their U.S. counterparts, Japanese politicians tend to be socially conservative and economically moderate, with conservative protections for big businesses and liberal welfare policies for the public. Japanese politicians don’t have debates of the issues, of which most people are painfully ignorant. Their campaigns consist mostly of campaigners driving around town with loud-speakers mounted to their cars constantly blaring, “Konnichi wa! (Dare-dare)! (Dare-dare) desu! Yoroshiku onegaishimasu! Hello! This is (So-and-so)! (So-and-so)! Thank you!” about 100 decibels louder than a Metallica concert. Politicians’ campaign promises consist mostly of more pork-barrel spending projects.

The DPJ has been in power since May 2009, taking over from the long-time incumbent LDP, which had been in power since 1955 (not counting a short interval in 1993-1994). The election of the slightly liberal DPJ was seen as a bit of an experiment, riding on the heels of the election of Barack Obama in the U.S., and now it seems the Japanese are eager to return to the status quo.



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

Visit him online at
E-mail him: [email protected]