Hope, defend, honest: how Japanese are being wooed with election campaign buzzwords

The campaign for the October 22 election kicks off formally on Tuesday

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 October, 2017, 2:32pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 October, 2017, 10:06pm

With Japan’s general election less than two weeks away, the eight political parties jostling for seats have unveiled slogans that they believe encapsulate their philosophies and can help propel them to victory.

Some parties have gone for the generic appeal to all, while others preferred to focus on a single issue that was close to their political hearts, apparently in the hope that voters shared that very focused interest.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have gone with a call to arms, claiming they were “Resolutely defending this country”.

“They are clearly talking about North Korea and the threat that it poses, but I also see this as implying the threat that China is and will be,” said Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor of international relations at Tokyo’s International Christian University.

“I think Abe’s administration has been pretty stable on North Korea, he is tight on security issues with President Trump and I think that plays well to a large audience here. He has pretty good political capital on this issue and he is using it widely.”

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s new party, Kibo no To (Party of Hope), was increasingly looking like a clone of the LDP but was clearly hoping that its double-barrelled electoral slogan – “Hope for Japan. A reset for Japan” – would set it apart.

“They are trying to craft an image that distinguishes them from the LDP, which is hard given that Koike and Abe are basically cut from the same ideological cloth,” Nagy said.

“They need to create a new narrative and get that across to the electorate in a very short space of time.”

Koike has repeatedly denied she would quit her governor’s post to run in the election and give her a chance of becoming prime minister. She has to decide by Tuesday, when the election campaign formally opens.

Komeito, the Buddhist-backed party that is in coalition with the LDP, has opted to focus on a single issue slogan: “Reducing the burden for education”, while the Social Democratic Party, which only has two seats in the lower house of the Diet, has gone with “Bring out the potential of the Constitution”.

They may be at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but the Japan Communist Party and Nihon no Kokoro, whose name translates as “the party that cares for Japan’s heart”, have both gone with more general appeals for support.

The communists said they were “Working together to open a new future”, while Kokoro wanted to send “A message to the next generation”.

Nippon Ishin no Kai, another right-of-centre party with 15 members in the lower house, has gone with “Destroy old politics. Create new politics”.

Japan’s newest political party – the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan – was only formed on October 3.

It was primarily made up of left-leaning former members of the Democratic Party and has aligned with Koike’s Kibo to fight the election.

For their electoral debut, the CDPJ has selected “Honest politics” as the party’s slogan.

And while Yukio Edano may have a reputation as an honest politician who has done his best for the country – notably in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake and the nuclear disaster at Fukushima – it remained to be seen whether the public can be convinced that Japanese politics can ever be “honest”.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg