Unterhauswahl 2012 - Stimme aus Okinawa
Security in Northeast Asia
Japan at a Turning-Point:
An Okinawan Perspective on the Return to LDP Government
Jan. 07, 2013
Translation and Introduction by Gavan McCormack
On December 16, 2012 the Abe Shinzo-led Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) trounced Noda Yoshihiko's governing Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in elections for the Lower House (House of Representatives) of the Japanese Diet. The landslide victory, delivering Abe (and his coalition partner, New Komeito) 325 of the seats in the 480 member House of Representatives (294 LDP plus 31 New Kometo), opened the way to the second Abe cabinet (following the Abe government of 2006-7). It was remarkable in several ways.
Firstly, it was, in a sense, unconstitutional, according to Supreme Court rulings that the regional discrepancy in the value of a single vote under the current electoral system is too wide. But virtually no one paid this any attention. Secondly, forty-one percent of the voters (roughly 11 million people) did not vote at all, a higher absentee figure than in any post-war election, and of the 59 per cent that did vote, less than 30 per cent favoured Abe (in the proportional sector the figure was 27 per cent). Thirdly, the LDP vote actually crashed even when compared with 2009 (a disastrous year that saw the DPJ achieve its landslide victory), from 33.4 million votes in the local constituency sector to just 25.6 million, and its proportional bloc from 18.8 million to 16.6 million. Its victory therefore rested on unprecedented mass absenteeism and the collapse of the DPJ rather than positive endorsement of its agenda. Fourthly, especially notable was that young people, who will determine the country's future and bear the burdens created by their elders of this and previous generations, had little interest in the election. While the figures for 2012 are not yet available, in the 2010 Upper House election the average voter age was 56 and the turnout rate for eligible voters aged between 20 and 24 was 33.68 per cent while for those aged between 65 and 69 it was 78.45 percent.  Those with most at stake in the election are less and less involved in it. In 2012 that trend could only have sharpened. Japan faces an increasingly gerontocratic future.
Nowehere in Japan is more affected by this peculiar Abe landslide victory than Okinawa. Okinawa has just five representatives in the 480-seat House of Representatives, and all five of those elected, irrespective of their party affiliation, campaigned in opposition to the policy that all the major parties (including, for several, their own) insisted on: prime consideration in Okinawa to the US military presence and specifically the construction of a new base for the US Marine Corps in Northern Okinawa, regardless of mass opposition.
As the rest of Japan digested the implications of the return to Abe government, the Okinawan media was uniquely dark. The Asia-Pacific Journal gratefully acknowledges the permission of Okinawa International University's Sato Manabu to translate and publish the following essay, published in the Okinawan daily Ryukyu shimpo, on New Year's Eve, 31 December 2012. (GMcC)
Constitution under Threat
Just two weeks have passed since the House of Representatives election, but it already seems like a long-ago event. That may be because the outcome of this election was long evident. Just as anticipated, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) suffered a crushing defeat, leaving it in such a position that it might not even be able to function henceforth as an opposition party capable of change of government, while forces favouring constitutional revision include not only the hugely victorious Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) but also many others even from the opposition parties. At the same time, the transfer of Futenma Marine base to a location outside Okinawa or outside Japan, supported by all the members elected from Okinawa, has disappeared from the consciousness of the new government and the Japanese people in general. Furthermore, not only does this election result establish the government for the next few years but there are fears that it might constitute a historic turning-point capable of fundamentally changing Japan's politics and society under the Japanese consttution.
Ever since the small electorate constituency system was established, it has been understood that it would result in extremely advantageous seat distribution for the major parties. Introduced under the political reforms of the 1990s as part of a design to make change of government possible, it helped make possible the change of government to the DPJ [in 2009]. If one approves in general of the idea of change of government it is hard to criticize the outcome of this present election. If one is in favour of change of government, one cannot object to this particular change, because it has been brought about by reforms (in the 90s) designed to advantage two main parties and to replace the long one party LDP era with a two party system. In short, what those in the 1990s who favoured "political reform" wanted, has come to pass.
However, what has long concerned this author is the possibility of the emergence of a giant centrist party through a grand coalition of the DPJ and LDP. What has emerged now is a Diet overwhelmingly dominated by an LDP that has shed its liberal wing and become almost exclusively conservative. If other, lesser, conservative parties that seem to be in fundamental agreement with it on matters concerning human rights and the military join it, it will be difficult hereafter to block revision of the constitution. Looking at the LDP's draft constitutional revision, it is clear that it would reinforce limits on fundamental human rights and dilute popular sovereignty.
The problem may be that people ready to accept such revision of the constitution is actually in the process of becoming a majority. Should the people decide by democratic means to weaken democratic controls over state power, it will not be possible to criticize this as anti-democratic. The situation, now that the balance between revisionists and upholders of the constitution has dissolved and upholders have become a minority, is that the very existence of the constitution is threatened.
Anxiety about the Future and Support for Constitutional Revision
There is no doubt that the increasing stridency of nationalism in reaction against China and South Korea, based on territorial problems, has been based on vague anxieties over the future of Japan together with the realization of "economic decline," and that this is linked to the public opinion in favour of constitutional revision. As military hard-line policies over the Senkaku problem gather overwhelming support, the US bases in Okinawa become a prop for distorted nationalism and the new government is likely to press ahead with constuction of he new Henoko base.
The main reason the DPJ collapsed was because it won the 2009 election through tricking people about the relationship between people's interests and obligations. There was no way to increase benefits for the people without increasing burdens too except by either accomplishing economic growth or cutting "unnecessary expenditure." Since neither of these proved possible there was no alternative to increasing taxes, a point that I made in this column at the time the DPJ took government in September 2009.
The LDP has floated policies of accomplishing escape from deflation and stimulating economic growth by encouraging inflationary expectations through increase in bond issues and market interventions by the Bank of Japan. At the same time, it has pledged to greatly increase public works expenditure. It aims to maintain a "honeymoon market" until the forthcoming House of Councillors election (summer 2013). However, the current economic stagnation is not caused by a high yen or insufficiency of money supply. Tried and familiar growth policies are of no use so long as there is no change in the condition of society with too few children and an aging and shrinking population, and with the electronic and auto industries that were once the mainstay of the economy losing their international competitiveness.
Japan's misfortune is that it has not produced true "economic conservatives." The economc policies of the DPJ are completely different from an economic conservative position and are really just like those of the LDP in the sense of "postponing the burden." Furthermore, since the conditions for growth are absent, the possibility that stable economic growth might result from such policies is so low as to be almost zero. The situation cannot long continue in which the people's wealth is used to sustain the national debt.
The Classic Escape Route
When there is no way forward, what will the LDP government do? I have no wish to entertain such a thought but the classic escape route is war, the calculation that the people's dissatisfactions can be diverted into an eruption of nationalism, and that Japan absolutely could not lose such a war because there is the Security Treaty with the US and the US would support Japan in any such war with China. Whether from history or from the contemporary world, we can see so plainly that it almost painful just how irrational human beings can be, and there is no guaranteee that today's Japan will not go this route.
How can we change the way forward for Japanese society and politics? Might it not be the case that only Okinawa, which knows that even if money is spent constructing a new base at Henoko the US is not going to support a war with China, can put a stop to this mistaken path? If it fails to achieve this, an armed clash over the Senkakus would put Okinawan lives at risk and bring our economy to collapse.
Okinawa can avoid a worst case scenario by continuing to insist on its rights based on principle and keeping up its resistance to the idiotic policy of pouring monies into the wasteful Henoko project. For Okinawa's tiny minority of the Japanese people, this is a most difficult path. However, if we surrender, that would spell the end. We have to believe in the strength of the voices coming from the Okinawan front-lines.
See in addition the New Year day editorial of the Ryukyu Shimpo, "Okinawa Should Spearhead a Global Drive to Promote Peace," http://english.ryukyushimpo.jp/2013/01/04/8922/
Sato Manabu is a professor of politics at Okinawa International University. This is his monthly (December) column for the Okinawan daily, Ryukyu shimpo, published on 31 December, 2012. For a 2007 essay by author Sato: "Forced to 'Choose' its Own Subjugation: Okinawa's Place in U.S. Global Military Realignment," August 27, 2006, http://japanfocus.org/-Sato-Manabu/2202
Gavan McCormack is a coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal, emeritus professor at Australian National University, and author, most recently (with Satoko Oka Norimatsu) of Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States, Rowman and Littlefield, 2012.
Recent pieces on related subjects:
Roger Pulvers, "The Lessons of the 3.11 Meltdown for Japanese Nuclear Power: Citizenship vs. A Corporate Culture of Collusion," Dec. 23, 2012, http://japanfocus.org/events/view/164
Martin Dusinberre "Mr. Abe's Local Legacy and the Future of Nuclear Power in Japan," Dec. 23, 2012, http://japanfocus.org/events/view/165
'Jinbo Taro, "The Second Time as Farce?' Abe Shinzo's New Challenge," Dec. 24, 2012, http://japanfocus.org/events/view/166
Gavan McCormack, "Abe Days are Here Again - Japan in the World," December 24, 2012. http://japanfocus.org/-Gavan-McCormack/3873
 On the so-called "malapportionment" problem, see "Elections in Japan," Wikipedia, (27 December 2012), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_Japan/
 Compiled from contemporary media sources, notably "Hirei daihyo wa kinki nozoki jimin shui, tokuhyoritsu 27%, sanpai zenkai nami," Nihon Keizai shimbun, 18 December 2012. http://www.nikkei.com/article/DGXDZO49683680Y2A211C1M10700/
 Reiji Yoshida, "Election 2012 – Older voter glut helps politicians avoid long-range problems," Japan Times, 14 December 2012.
Asahi shimbun reported on 17 December the result of a survey of the newly elected Diet members, finding that 89 per cent favoured constitutional revision and 79 per cent affirmed the Japanese right to participate in "collective security." ("Shudanteki jieiken 8 wari ga yonin, shuinsen tosensha," Asahi shimbun, 17 December 2012.) (Translator's note)
Anhang: Original Japanisch.
Okinawa should spearhead a global drive to promote peace
January 1, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo
The New Year is upon us. At the beginning of a year in which Japan marks the 68th anniversary of the end of the war, we would like to think about Japan following the path of a peaceful country. At the same time, we suggest that we look at the desired future for Okinawan society and press ahead with discussion at multiple levels among the Okinawan people about how peace, autonomy and independence should be.
The Japanese Constitution renounces war. The antiwar and antinuclear messages sent by Okinawa, which was the scene of the largest amphibious battle in the Pacific War, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, upon which American bombers dropped atomic bombs, have for global community created an image of a Japan that has learned the lesson of history. These images are valuable assets for Japan. By pursuing our peace constitution our country spearheads a global drive to promote peace. This fact should also be the basis of every discussion involving Okinawa.
Unfair treatment of Okinawa by the Japanese and the U. S. governments
While revision of clauses of the constitution including Article Nine and the establishment of a National Defense Force, move closer to being realized under the administration of newly installed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, opinion polls reveal that for Japanese citizens neither of these are priority issues.
The government should refrain from use weight of numbers to force through the implementation of policies that split public opinion, such as the increase in sales tax, participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and policies on nuclear power plants.
Prior to moving towards a majority decision, a considered review would guarantee democratic validity to any policies implemented. We want both the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito to display self-control.
Even more than in past years, Okinawa needs to exert a tenacious negotiating power in order to create peaceful and prosperous islands without any military bases.
The U.S. and Japanese governments are making steady progress on the plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago. Last October, the central government went ahead with the deployment to Okinawa of the MV-22 Osprey vertical take-off and landing transport aircraft that has a history of crashing.
Beyond the end of January the central government will move ahead with the application to reclaim the coastal area of Henoko for the relocation of the facilities at Futenma. It is highly likely that Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima will call for the relocation of the base outside of the prefecture and reject the application. If that happens, the central government may order the prefectural government to adjust its stance, execute the plan by proxy, or even sue the prefectural government.
The Okinawan people have rejected the Henoko relocation plan, and various American researchers, and former Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto, have pointed out the irrationality, from a strategic viewpoint, of stationing the U.S. Marines in Okinawa. For all intents and purposes the plan does not stand up – it is ridiculous to go ahead with it. The U.S. and Japanese governments should review the agreement to relocate Futenma Air Station to Henoko, and resubmit a plan to relocate the base outside of the prefecture or outside of Japan, closing and removing the facilities currently at Futenma.
The U.S. and Japanese governments espouse freedom, democracy, respect for people, and rule of law as common values. If they are true to their word, they need to fundamentally review the unfair policies that impact upon Okinawa.
At the same time, Okinawa needs the imagination and flexibility to see the second term for Abe, who supported introducing a regional system, as an opportunity to expand its autonomy. The Regional Preferential Vision for Okinawa, which the Okinawa Regional System Advisory Conference proposed to Nakaima in September 2009, could serve as a useful reference.
The conference consists of educators in universities, people representing the Okinawan business community, labor circles and members of the prefectural assembly, and representatives of municipalities. In terms of moments that change the flow of events, they see the introduction of a regional system as being just as significant as the invasion of the Ryukyu Kingdom by forces of the Japanese feudal domain of Satsuma in 1609, the annexation of the Ryukyus in 1879, the implementation of Article Three of the Treaty of San Francisco that left Okinawa under potential U.S. trusteeship in 1952, and Okinawa’s reversion from U.S. rule to Japanese sovereignty in 1972. But the members of the conference asserted that even if a regional system were introduced, we should keep in mind that Okinawa could still be shaped by outside forces.
The vision suggests that to a significant extent the central government delegates the authority to a new Okinawa Government for matters such as the enforcement of duties and quarantines, immigration authority and coastal and border security, as well as the taxation of U.S. military forces stationed in Okinawa. It envisions the establishment of a new Okinawa Provincial Government.
In 2010, Yasukatsu Matsushima, professor of Ryukoku University, proposed the Ryukyu Autonomous Republic Federation Statehood Declaration. We hope that this year the people of Okinawa will further deepen discussion on the topics of autonomy and independence.
We want a peace movement to steadily develop. Johan Galtung, the principal founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies and co-founder of TRANSCEND, a nongovernmental organization for conflict transformation by peaceful means, defines the absence of overt violent conflict as negative peace, and a state in which nations do not have structural violence, including poverty, oppression and discrimination that threaten safety and human rights, as positive peace.
What we push for is positive peace. A military alliance cannot remove structural violence. We suggest that through international collaboration and the power of the people, including nongovernmental organizations, we reduce the structural violence prevalent in Okinawa and the world. Okinawa needs to call for the global community to work together.
(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)