Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Japan’s Democrats get ready to govern

August 10, 2009

Close your eyes and it could almost be a cabinet minister speaking.

Japan’s main opposition Democratic Party is gearing up for government after the Aug. 30 election, if a talk by the party’s No.2 leader Katsuya Okada is anything to go by.

Speaking at a Thomson Reuters Newsmaker event in Tokyo, Okada sought to display the politician’s gravitas as he answered questions on everything from foreign policy to the environment and the economy.


If the Democrats do take power, they will inherit an economy which is far from healthy and Okada was careful to manage expectations and not overpromise on what they can do.

As the election date has drawn closer, the Democrats have toned down some of their rhetoric on issues like currency reserve management and the status of the dollar the world’s reserve currency.

They have also taken a more pragmatic approach to relations with the U.S., after touting plans to stand up to Washington.

Faced with an audience of diplomats, economists and financial market investors, Okada was careful not to rock that boat too much.

There were issues of concern between the two countries, he said, but “What is important is for President Obama and Prime Minister Hatoyama, if there is a government  change, to first build a relationship with firm trust.”

If that sounds less than scary, it is no doubt what he had in mind.

Opinion polls show the Democrats well ahead for the Aug. 30 election, and on track to end half a century of almost unbroken rule by the rival Liberal Democratic Party.

And that is just part one of the Dems’ campaign. They are speaking openly of winning a clear majority in parliament’s upper house next year — another good reason to tread softly and not scare the voters.

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