Japan: UH election result and implications

2007-08-03 - oiwan
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Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party was unexpectedly defeated in July 29's Upper House election. Chris from GVO posted a question on whether the result of the election is a groundswell of support for the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), or was it simply a long-overdue rejection of “business as usual”? And there are some bloggers comments, some are rather skeptical.

However, the election seems to meant a lot for the Japan progressive circle. In the past few days, I got two letters from Yoko Akimoto, Secretariat, ATTAC Japan, the first one is about their candidate Ryuhei Kawada (an HIV positive patient)'s success in the election. The second letter is about their analysis of the election's implications to local and international politics.

Ryuhei Kawada won the UH election

Dear all,

I'm so happy to report this wonderful news to our friends in the world!

The ruling party (Liberal Democratic Party) was severely defeated at the Upper House election yesterday.

Ryuhei Kawada at 31 won the Upper House election in the Tokyo constituency with five seats on July 29. He ran as an independent and a representative of social movements, NGOs, civic groups or the like.

Kawada is a HIV-positive patient. He got infected with HIV through tainted blood product imported from US when he was a child. He revealed his infection to the public at the age of 19. He and other patients sued the government for its negligence, claiming that the Health and Welfare Ministry permitted import of tainted blood product although the Ministry already found the risk of infection in the product. Finally the applicants got a judicial reconciliation in favor of patients in 1996 after their and their supporters' many efforts including mobilization, rally, or meetings.

He said in his campaign repeatedly, "I do want to live proudly with hope, not despair," adding that he would work for people and work to change this society into one where the weak could live in a peace. His simple and honest appeal grabbed many different persons' heart - socially weak persons and youngsters, particularly. He gained some 700,000 votes and won the election.

Early in January I was asked to help his accommodation in Nairobi because the WSF is one of his important interest. Kawada went to Nairobi to join the WSF. He also visited a slum to see HIV-positive Kenyans, in addition to the site for dam construction at Lake Nakuru funded by Japanese ODA.

Ryuhei Kawada is always with us.
Absolutely, he will work for us as Japanese MP.
His victory is encouraging to all of us in the world.

Congratulation, Ryuhei!

Yoko Akimoto
Secretariat, ATTAC Japan

Election's implication: a new political dimension

The ruling parties' devastating defeat in the snap election in Japan on July 29 revealed the dawn of a new political dimension domestically and internationally in terms of politics as well as progressive movements.

The opposition parties gained a majority in the Upper House. Technically, this means that, even if a bill passed the Lower House, the bill may be rejected by senators. That is, the ruling parties' coalition cannot pass bills in their own direction as before. In fact, very interestingly, one critical debate is happening in our society after the election. The "Anti-terrorism Special Measures Law", a temporary legislation which passed the Parliament in Oct 2001 after Sept. 11 to support American war on terror in Afghanistan will automatically expire on Nov 1 this year if the extension is not accepted in the Parliament. Under the law, the warships of the Maritime Self-Defense Force (equivalent to Japanese army) are currently working as a buddy store in the Indian Ocean to support the US forces in Afghanistan.

Before the snap election, the government was taking it for granted that the extension would easily get through in the Parliament as the ruling parties' coalition had a majority in the LH so as to continue to satisfy US request. However, the outcome has revealed that things would never go well as expected by the government, since the opposition parties won an overwhelming majority in the UH in the election.

Yesterday the US ambassador to Japan tried to contact Ozawa, a leader of the Democratic Party (the largest opposition party) to ask him not to reject the extension of the "Anti-terrorism Special Measures Law" in the next session which would start soon. However, Ozawa refused to see the US ambassador in the reason that he didn't know the ambassador well. Interviewed by the media, he said, "We will never change our policy. Our party has been consistently opposed to the law. Why bother changing our stance while our party won a victory in the election?"

In addition, the above condition applies to other bills including trade agreements. The discussion on FTA between JAPAN and Australia is under way. Both governments are keen to ink the agreement ASAP. However, the new political situation on the Japanese side will definitely delay further steps. The Democratic Party seem hesitant to the FTA with concern about small-scale farmers.

Three great candidates were elected in the UH election on July 29. Ryuhei Kawada, a HIV-positive patient was elected in the Metropolitan constituency, as I already explained in this ML. Keiko Itokazu as an independent supported by all of opposition parties got a seat in the Okinawa constituency with some 150% more votes than those obtained by the candidate of the ruling party. Tokushin Yamauchi who was a mayor of Yomitan village in Okinawa running as a candidate of the Social Democratic Party was also elected in the proportional representation constituency.

Now in Okinawa, local residents and supporters of them from across the country are sitting in at Henoko Okinawa which is a planned site for US heliport every day, opposing its construction in the beautiful sea with coral reaf where dugong lives. After election, new senators Itokazu and Yamauchi rushed to Henoko to support people who were sitting in against the US Base and thank them for their support during campaign. Ryuhei Kawada visited Henoko to support their struggle before the campaign started.

As you see, a new political dimension has just come in Japan, and definitely, it has also come to us social movements.

(photo from GVO)

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