Japan’s tipped election winners will ‘restore balance in policy’
(24 August 2009)
Japan will restore balance in its foreign and domestic policies with less commitment to its US ally’s military campaigns if the predicted election winners take power, a Durham University expert said today.
Dr Yukiko Miyagi, Research Fellow in the School for Government and International Affairs at Durham University, and expert on Japan’s international relations, added that “this change in foreign policy would lead to a more independent-minded Japan.”
Dr Miyagi said: “If the Democratic Party of Japan-led (DPJ) coalition takes up office, we are likely to see Japan trying to manoeuvre between its elite’s urge to activate Japanese military and send troops overseas and the public sentiment for maintaining Japan as a ‘peace state’.
“They will likely focus on proactively sending military forces for humanitarian and post-war reconstruction purposes under the banner of the United Nations, but not necessarily for the US ally’s own military campaigns.
“DPJ’s current strategy is to realise foreign policy independence from the US by strengthening ties with Asian neighbours while still keeping the US alliance as the country’s foreign policy pillar.”
Dr Miyagi added: “However, rivalry with China over the regional leadership, contest over the US leverage on certain issues, and bilateral conflict are still likely to pull Japan towards reliance on the US alliance. They need US help in resolving some of their major issues such as North Korean nuclear development.
“DPJ’s foreign and security policy is likely to be reactive, reluctant and frustrated, and somewhat similar to the way Japan behaved in the period before Koizumi.
“It will probably settle on a compromise lacking clarity, bearing in mind that the party is made up of both ex-socialist and ex-conservative members who came together mostly behind the shared objective of taking power from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).”
On the domestic front, Dr Miyagi says a balance will be restored between big business and the rest of society, returning to a ‘catch-all’ democracy.
She said: “At the moment, LDP’s major support comes from the owners and high executives of large businesses and local notables who are interested in the preservation of the current system, whereas the DPJ’s support comes more from workers and small businesses.
“The big issue is how this catch-all policy can be realised. It is already doubted whether a DPJ government would manage to find the resources to secure the lives of workers, pensioners and families, and still activate the country’s economy at the same time. There is fear that the move towards a welfare state means a move towards a heavy-tax state.”
Dr Miyagi commented: “This election will be an interesting one to watch; it could be historic if it means the end of the LDP rule and an end to the elite corruption. However, it could follow the path of the elections in 1993 when the Japanese public had started to suffer from the country’s stagnant economy and were fed up with corruption, but yet they remained in power only with a bit of a hiccup with less than two years out of power.
“If the DPJ coalition proves to be incompetent and ends with a stalemate, unable to forge a coherent policy among its ruling partners and unable to exercise power over the bureaucracy, the LDP might return to power as they did in the 90s.”