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Think Again: Japan's Revolutionary Election

Oct 2, 2009

This article is posted with permission from Foreign Policy. It appeared on October 1, 2009.

"The Recent Elections Are Revolutionary for Japan."

Hardly. A "revolution" implies a sudden, pervasive, and marked change in society or political economy. But the Democratic Party of Japan's (DPJ's) politicians are not revolutionaries. Like those of the long-reigning Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), they are political opportunists without any long-standing ideological position or dominant constituency. Their only common desire is to be elected.

Nor is the leadership of the new ruling party all that different from the old. Many members of the DPJ leadership were at one point members of the LDP: Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa, Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii, Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, and State Minister for Financial Services Shizuka Kamei, to name a few. Around half of the cabinet attended the University of Tokyo, the traditional feeder for government elites.

The Japanese people don't seem to think they've elected revolutionaries either. In polls, Japanese voters said they weren't electing radical change as much as expressing dissatisfaction with the LDP. Poll after poll indicates that constituents do not think Hatoyama is a great leader. And only a quarter of voters think the DPJ will lead Japan in the "right direction."

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