Izumi Kenta wants to challenge Japan

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meZUMI KENTAleader of the main Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), are itching for a change. In an interview with The Economist, the self-proclaimed progressive laments the country’s slow growth and demographic problems. He believes the culprit is the conservative rule of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has lasted for most of the last seven decades. “Old values ​​have continued to dampen the vitality of the country,” says Mr. Izumi. “We want to change things.”

In theory, he has a rare chance. The LDP troubled by a financial scandal. Its leader, Kishida Fumio, the prime minister of Japan, is very unhappy. But Mr. Izumi’s party is struggling to take advantage. The CDP’The net approval rating is around 5% in most polls, while the net approval rating is around 5% in most polls, while the approval rating is net about 5% in most polls, while the net approval rate is about 5% in most polls, while the net approval rate is about 5 % in most votes LDP between 15% and 35%. This shows the nature of the opposition party. The party from which he emerged in 2017, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), it was difficult to be in power when a massive tsunami hit in 2011. Many blamed the aftermath DPJ incompetence, damaging the reputation of the party.

Some of the criticism was deserved. After becoming embroiled in Japan’s powerful bureaucracy, the dpj it was also not possible to implement much of the reform he promised. “The DPJ they tried too hard to create another system,” said Makihara Izuru from the University of Tokyo. However, it is difficult to understand to what extent the center left is still colored by this tape.

Mr. Izumi – who was in charge of the CDP in 2021 – hoping to correct this weakness, in part by asking the party to adopt more “reasonable” and popular policies. He took over from his predecessor Edano Yukio dpj general secretary, who was particularly associated with the party’s miserable spell in power. Most Japanese remember Mr. Edano appearing on television in a blue jumpsuit after the tsunami and subsequent meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Mr. Izumi, who at 49 is young by the standards of Japanese politicians, represents an opportunity for resettlement. Nevertheless, after serving in the DPJ administration, he still has his work cut out for him to reassure skeptical voters that his party is fit to govern.

He was born from an independent opposition party, the CDP often accused of not having a positive attitude. Mr. Izumi, who shares his party’s views with the Democrats in America and the Labor Party in Britain. They include liberal social policies such as legalizing gay marriage and allowing married couples to use different surnames, which the majority of the public support. But Mr. Izumi is struggling to get much attention for his party. He admits to a lack of understanding of social media, but also expresses frustration with the Japanese media’s fixation on the ruling party. Many political scientists support that analysis. “The media is so receptive to the idea that the LDP the only game in town,” said Nakano Koichi of Sophia University.

Mr. Izumi deserves more attention, if only for the change he is already bringing to Japanese politics. Center-left parties such as the cdp has traditionally taken a more skeptical view of the Japanese-American alliance and adhered to the country’s post-war pacifist identity. Hence the abuse DPJ government – “to present a big, different view”, as Mr. Izumi puts it – wants the LDP’s more hawkish security policies, scaring America. In contrast, he supports Mr. Kishida’s effort to strengthen defense. This echoes public opinion, which has become more concerned about security since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.

Mr. Izumi has also indicated that he is willing to revisit the left’s longstanding opposition to nuclear power. As well as being sensible in itself, this is also in line with public opinion. The meltdown in Fukushima caused a furious anti-nuclear backlash that led the government to shut down nuclear plants across Japan. But high energy prices have weakened the anti-nuclear lobby; and without nuclear power Japan will struggle to meet its decarbonisation goals. Mr. Izumi has expressed measured support for restarting nuclear power stations. He still has a lot to do to revive the center-left opposition. But the pragmatism it shows makes it possible.

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