Are “[t]he Democrats are a ragbag of independents, socialists and former LDP members set adrift after the last big bang in Japanese politics, in the mid-1990s, when the ruling party lost power for 10 months?” It’s interesting to note that Observing Japan’s Tobias Harris, who is cited as a major source in the story, disagrees with that overall assessment implicit in words like “ragbag” and “set adrift” and believes that the significance of the internal differences has been blown up beyond reasonable proportions. In fact, the bulk of the opposition had coalesced by 1998, after the first post-1955 non-LDP administration (1993-94) and the unholy LDP-Socialist union (1994-96) into two major opposition parties, one of them under Ozawa’s control, which merged in 2003 to form the current DPJ. That’s eleven years of coherence fighting three Lower House and four Upper House elections, including six years of unity and two Lower House and Upper House elections each. This also means that a large number of DPJ members, particularly in the admittedly less powerful Upper House, know national political life only under the DPJ banner or its other, Ozawa-led antecedent’s. I probably disagree with Tobias (yes, he’s a friend) on the degree of institutional solidity that the DPJ has achieved. But it surely has more ideological coherence than its American namesake and almost as much as that of the LDP, especially if you throw in the latter’s long-time coalition partner New Komeito; at a minimum, to suggest that its members still remain the products of the political big bang is a misrepresentation of the state of the DPJ.
As for people calling Ozawa a “socialist”, I was genuinely mystified. I googled and found one column and a small number of bloggers who claim that the party policy under Ozawa has turned socialist. That’s not something you would think is worth referring to, is it? Moreover, none of the accusations that I found had been hurled at Ozawa personally—which supports a claim that I made about him recently, though that’s beside the point here. But, as I said, I stand ready to be corrected on this one.