Two of the biggest egos in Japanese politics have found some room for compromise (日) after weeks of dancing around the issue of working together. Ishihara Shintaro has recognized that Hashimoto Toru’s Nippon Ishin no Kai has the better political brand positioning and has decided to fold his party into Hashimoto’s for the upcoming election. However, Hashimoto has allowed Ishihara to take the lead (for now) and relegated himself to second position in the new collaboration’s set up. They have also managed to put behind them a few policy major differences and have announced a somewhat clear (relatively speaking) memorandum of agreement on what the party would actually initially focus on if it was in the position to affect the passage of legislation/policy-making in the next Diet.
What is notable is a failure to mention constitutional change. This is probably smart, as while no one will be confused regarding either man’s general orientation towards foreign affairs, issues of constitutional change, education and nationalism, and security policy, are things that the Japanese public has consistently indicated in polls are secondary to fixing the domestic political system, the economy, and other pressing social issues. The order of addressing these issues is important to the public, and it would seem that Abe and the conservative wing of the LDP are forgetting (日) this already.*
The document the two sides produced is reasonably short – a rough summary follows:
【１】 Breaking down the centralization of power
Establish a new tax collection system with increased local government responsibility for collection and deciding on its use- the consumption tax, to be increased to 11 percent, will dedicate five percent for fixed government financing and six percent for shared local government finances
【２】 Begin discussions around the doushuusei (a psuedo-federal) system for organizing regional governance
【３】 Initiate policies for the creation of an economy focused on successful small, medium and micro-business enterprise.
【４】 For funding the social security system, introduce appropriate insurance premiums, revise payment conditions, and remake the personal and asset taxation system.
【５】 Look towards participating in the TPP but in discussions ensure that the national interest is not harmed. [A well needed corrective, probably forced upon Hashimoto by Ishihara] In addition there is a need to introduce policies to enhance the competitiveness of the agricultural sector.
【６】 Establishment of a new energy distribution system
With regards to nuclear power, there needs to be （１）Construction of [new] rules regarding（a）safety standards（b）a new safety assurance system （c）processing of spent nuclear fuel（d）identification of responsibility; and（２）Liberalization of the energy sector [away from the regional monopoly system]
【７】 Regarding the Senkaku Islands dispute, push for China to go to the International Court of Justice to resolve the issue. If a case is brought against Japan by China, then Japan should respond in kind.
【８】 Ban party and Diet member donations from businesses and associations. Expand system for encouraging individual donations. As a transitional measure, have an upper limit for donations by businesses and associations
Afterword: The above list of objectives is a reasonably pragmatic, and frankly well needed, simplification of the various ideas floating around between the “third pole” parties. Perhaps Hashimoto in particular has realized that there were too many question marks over what he and his group would do with any power given to them by the citizens. It is also a response to recent criticism by both the LDP and DPJ who have suggested that deals made by the various small parties would be nothing more than “unholy alliances” (an ironic criticism to say the least). In any respect, the aggregated support rate for the various third pole parties (including Your Party and Tax Reducation Japan) still sits under ten percent depending on the opinion poll. A failure to improve on that figure, as well as to pool resources and field candidates in various SMD districts around the whole country, will not only curtail Ishihara and Hashimoto’s long-term ambitions by diluting their leverage, but given the electoral math,** would likely result in the LDP and Komeito coalition securing a majority on December 16th, thereby making the song and dance about the need for a “third pole” moot.
* The proposal is to remove the clause in the textbook certification process that requires consideration of the historic relationship with neighbouring countries. In fact they want to overhaul the whole system of textbook certification and design process, with its “masochistic tendencies,” as a way of making children appreciate ‘traditional Japanese culture’ and to regenerate the Japanese education system. Because that is obviously the main and most pressing problem with the Japanese education system…
** A subject for a post perhaps later next week if some useful opinion polls come out.