Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Communist Party Makes a Comeback ... in Japan

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Communist Party Makes a Comeback ... in Japan

Article excerpt

A smiling, smartly attired 30-year-old woman sits at an expansive table in a meeting room decorated with simple elegance on the fourth floor of a modern office building in central Tokyo.

Only the sunflower broach - an anti-nuclear symbol - on the woman's suit, and perhaps that the large calligraphy scroll on the wall behind her that isn't hung perfectly straight, betray the fact that this isn't a scene from corporate Japan. Yoshiko Kira doesn't look like she intends to dismantle capitalism, but this is the headquarters of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), and she is one of its rising stars, and that's her plan.

When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party cemented its grip on power with a victory in the upper house elections on July 21, the unlikely other winners were the Communists. Ms. Kira was one of the party's newly elected lawmakers who saw the JCP raise its representation in the House of Councilors from six seats to 11, giving it a large enough bloc to propose legislation. She was the first Communist to win in the five-seat Tokyo constituency in 12 years, while another young JCP candidate won in Osaka, the party's first victory there in 15 years. Overall, the Communists came in second to the ruling party in terms of votes collected in Japan's two giant metropolises.

How? Part of the reason has to do with the deterioration of the main political parties.

DisarrayWhat had been the main opposition, the left-of-center Democratic Party of Japan - which spent three years in government until its defeat in December's general election - is in almost utter disarray.

Two of the founding members have left the party, while the third, Naoto Kan - the prime minister at the time of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters - has just been suspended from the party for three months after supporting an independent candidate in the recent election. Some voters appeared to have seen the Communists as the only party able to counterbalance the nationalism of the Abe administration and its talk of amending Japan's pacifist Constitution.

Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso caused consternation in some quarters last week when he appeared to suggest, during a speech to a conservative think tank, that the current controversy around the constitution could have been avoided if Japan had changed it in secret, as was done in Nazi Germany.

"When I was a child there were a lot of books in my house with pictures of the war and the atomic bombing. I used to worry that planes flying overhead might be carrying bombs. Then one day my mother told me that Japan can't have wars anymore because of the Constitution, and I thought I was lucky to be born in this country," Kira says. "But now the Abe government wants to change the Constitution so that Japan can start wars again. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.