Sunday, May 18, 2008

The balkanization scenario

Sasayama Tatsuo, onetime HR member from Akita who followed Ozawa Ichiro out of the LDP in 1993 and remained with him through the New Frontier and Liberal party eras before losing his seat in 2000, has an idea for the future of the LDP that has the virtue of at least being different.

Mr. Sasayama has a post at his blog entitled, "The time has come for the LDP to think about the road to survival by means of dividing the party."

The title says it all, doesn't it?

Mr. Sasayama's idea is that the LDP should divide into "holonic, small LDP-style, franchise-like parties" that will support LDP governments. (Unclear on the meaning of "holonic?" I had to look it up.) Mr. Sasayama does not indicate how this should come about: how should the LDP break up? how many franchises? should they be ideational franchises? demographic franchises? regional franchises? These questions are left unanswered.

However, this idea is still intriguing, not because the LDP leadership will decide to take this suicidal step — Mr. Sasayama admits that the party leadership might find this troubling — but because it's a plausible scenario for the political realignment that many (myself included) assume is coming before or after the next general election, despite the wishes of the LDP executive.

The formation of the People's New Party in the wake of the postal reform battle, the formation of the "True Conservative Policy Research Group" from the wreckage of the Abe cabinet, and Hiranuma Takeo's persistent threat to form his own conservative party suggest that it's not inconceivable for the LDP to splinter without the micro-parties merging into a new large party. Maybe a two-party system is not a guaranteed outcome of the 1994 electoral reform after all. Perhaps Japan's political future will look like India's present, with national parties forced to rely on smaller regional and ideological parties to form governments (making the current twisted Diet look like a paragon of efficiency).

There is, of course, some precedent for a balkanized Japanese political system. Japan's first postwar decade was characterized by smaller parties on both the left and the right. The merger of the Democratic and Liberal parties (the former being the product of a merger orchestrated by Kishi Nobusuke) in 1955 to form the LDP ended the balkanization on the right by submerging ideological and personality clashes within the party; the balkanization on the left persisted throughout the cold war due to divisions between the JCP and JSP, as well as divisions among the socialists, who but for a few years in the late 1950s were divided into the JSP and the DSP.

Would the split be the prelude to a new set of mergers into two new big parties or would it become a semi-permanent arrangement? And would the DPJ be able to stay intact while the LDP crumbled?

1 comment:

Janne Morén said...

Just an observation that quite a lot of countries have a largish (up to a dozen) regional and ideological parties in parliament, with no single party completely dominant, and still manage to produce governments more effective than the current Japanese situation (not a terribly high bar to pass, true).

Splitting up along ideological lines does bring the benefit of clarity of purpose for the members, and clarity of intentions for the voting public.