Monday, January 29, 2007

The DPJ starts out on the wrong foot

As I alluded to earlier, in this post on Abe's speech at the opening of the new Diet session, the DPJ may find itself unable to attack the LDP for improprieties by LDP members in the raising of political funds due to the resignation of erstwhile DPJ member Tsunoda Giichi from his position as vice president of the Upper House.

Tsunoda's departure has intensified already ongoing talk about illegal fundraising activities in the offices of Japanese legislators, but now the DPJ is tainted by the discontent.

Sadly, it's hard to be surprised by this, given that in too many ways the DPJ remains a pale imitation of the LDP, apparently right down to fundraising practices. While the DPJ may have been quicker to call for Tsunoda's resignation -- certainly quicker than the LDP was in recent months when cabinet members and Abe advisers were accused of wrongdoing -- that's hardly a major selling point: "We admit our mistakes more readily!"

While the DPJ will no doubt continue to try to attack the LDP-Komeito government for poor governance -- with Abe's ministers determined to help them, it seems -- this charge may have less impact than it might have, given that the DPJ is no paragon of clean politics. Victory may well depend on the DPJ's somehow, in the next six months, developing and advocating a clear policy alternative to the LDP that has heretofore proved elusive.

In thinking about this problem, I wonder if the DPJ shouldn't look to the example of the British Euston Manifesto, an organization of progressive intellectuals formed in early 2006 that seeks to forge a position that bridges social democracy and liberal internationalism, rejecting the extremism of many "progressives" that has led them to embrace foreign governments that are anything but progressive. The DPJ's problem since its formation during the mid-1990s is that it has found it difficult to reconcile the differences between the party's former socialists and the more conservative LDP outcasts. A compromise forged along lines found in the Euston Manifesto's Statement of Principles might actually provide a basis for both bridging the divide within the DPJ while distancing the party from the LDP.

DPJ chief Ozawa Ichiro highlighted the inequality problem today in his rebuttal to Abe's speech, but that critique should not and cannot be mere opportunism; rather, it should be the basis for a genuinely distinct policy platform.

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