Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Aso flags LDP conservativism

August 21, 2009

To some people a national flag is little more than a piece of cloth, while to others it is a sacred symbol that embodies a country’s ideals. It was the latter that Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso apparently tried to score some easy points with this week in the run-up to the Aug. 30 election that voter surveys show his Liberal Democratic Party party is likely to lose.

In a televised debate, Aso accused the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan of defacing the national flag, commonly known locally as the Hinomaru or “sun circle”,  at a gathering for one of its candidates in southern Japan this month.

FINANCIAL/“My supporters told me that the Democratic Party cut up national flags and attached them to make a flag of the DPJ’s symbol,” Aso said. “I don’t want to believe it. Cutting up the national flag would be a very sad, unforgivable act.”  

Aso, who bows to the flag before speaking at news conferences, has been increasingly appealing to the LDP’s conservative base, saying the Democrats cannot protect the country with its weak security and socialist policies and using the word “conservative” more often in his speeches.

He has also recently criticised the Democrats for not displaying the Japanese flag at its headquarters. He said this was probably because of support from the leftist teachers’ union, a group anathema to conservatives. 

JAPAN-ELECTION/Indeed, seemingly looking to get maximum mileage out of the issue during this week’s debate, Aso commented that: “The most important thing is how much a party leader loves the country.” 

And DPJ chief Yukio Hatoyama took Aso’s comments on the chin: “If anyone had done such a disgraceful thing (tampered with the flag), I would deeply apologise.” 

The next day, the local office of a DPJ candidate in southern Kagoshima Prefecture issued a statement to apologise for using the national flag inappropriately.  

So, is Aso being canny in flagging this issue or does it simply smack of desperation?

Photo credit: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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