Japan minor parties shut out of policy making, but still have their say

Japan Times article via Kyodo

I have been blogging this one about once a week.

Here, the Democratic Party of Japan won big in the Lower House elections last month. But they really on minor parties like the Social Democrats (“the real socialists”) and the People’s New Party (a postal privatization splinter group from 2005) to make a majority in the Upper House.

These small parties could force DPJ to hunt for other votes in the Upper House in order for DPJ to pass legislation.

The initial talk, at least from the SPD, is that that party wanted to focus on “third rail” issues concerning the U.S. – Japan alliance, and particularly a renegotiation of the treaty to move some troops to Guam.

I thought this was a bad political move, since it went to the area where the DPJ might be least able to deliver changes. (They would have to renounce a treaty that was already negotiated with America.) To me, it seems like the point is you negotiate for something you can get. Not raise issues to make a lot of noise. That’s what an opposition party might do.

This week’s news is that the DPJ will formulate policy as its own party, but Ms. Fukushima (from SDP) and Mr. Kamei (PNP) will have cabinet-level positions. And presumably, will have the ability to slow-walk any legislation that their minor parties have a difficulty with.

They will also be part of a formal coalition group including Mr. Naoto Kan from the DPJ.

It sounds like being given outwardly junior roles in the new government, but effectively senior roles because of the side-power Fukushima and Kamei hold over legislation.

It will be interesting to see how this works.