A blueprint you can believe in“The Japanese are afraid of big systematical changes and cannot make such decisions because they are conservative.”
These were the words Ichiro Ozawa uttered during an interview in 2006, when he was president of the Democratic Party of Japan. He pointed out the tendency of voters to vote for the Liberal Democratic Party, even though they did not necessarily like the party.
It was almost reckless for Ozawa, who must have been aware of this fact, to defect from the Liberal Democratic Party and advocate a change of administration. There are probably many reasons why he chose to take the difficult road when he could have easily become prime minister had he remained with the Liberal Democratic Party. Perhaps it was because the fighter in him preferred capturing power by his own merits over having it handed to him on a plate. Or maybe a part of him wanted revenge on the Liberal Democratic Party elders who rejected his line of reform.
However, I believe the fundamental reason was tied to his political philosophy. That philosophy, outlined in a book called “Blueprint for a New Japan” that was released right before he left the party, has not changed much even now, 16 years later.
He asserted back then that Japan lacks true politics. The legislature and politicians think only of how to divide the benefits of rapid development between them. Since a unanimous vote - rather than a majority vote - is the norm, the government fails to make decisions because it takes too much time trying to figure out what the opposition party is thinking. The opposition lacks the will to take power and therefore eventually settles for what the ruling party offers.
According to Ozawa, this is why the Liberal Democratic Party became a semi-permanent ruling party. Ozawa suggested that Japan could change by creating a system where bringing in a new administration was actually possible.
Some of the reform projects he presented are already in operation, such as the introduction of a small election area system and the merger and abolition of municipal organizations. The projects he suggested that have not yet been taken up are reflected in the policy pledges of the Democratic Party of Japan, which will now become the governing party. For example, there is the creation of the United Nations Peace Maintenance Military Base for expanded international contributions.
The Japanese general election ended the day before yesterday with the landslide victory of the Democratic Party of Japan. Photographs of Ozawa, who played the biggest role in the change of administration, include him smiling broadly and wiping away a tear. Why would he cry when his unspoken prayer is finally being realized? He now has one last task: complete the blueprint he laid out 16 years ago.
The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Yeh Young-june [firstname.lastname@example.org]