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Old Faces, New Party? A Critical Reading of the Nippon Ishin no Kai Manifesto

Posted By admin On May 21, 2013 @ 1:54 pm In Abstracts for 2013, Social Sciences | Comments Disabled

Ernils Klas Jerker Larsson, Master´s  Student

Faculty of Theology

Uppsala University

The December 16, 2012, general elections in Japan showed a new trend in Japanese politics. While the Democratic Party (DP) suffered a significant loss and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) once again assumed leadership of the country, what was different from earlier elections was the large number of new parties that entered the political stage. Though minor parties are nothing new to Japanese politics, the forming and reforming of new parties that took place during the year leading up to the election largely reshaped this area of the political landscape. By far the largest amongst these new parties is the Nippon Ishin no Kai (NIK), the “Japan Restoration Party.” Originating in the local politics of Osaka where it was formed in 2010 as the Osaka Restoration Association (Ōsaka ishin no kai), the party swiftly rose to power under the charismatic leadership of Hashimoto Tōru in the local elections of 2011. In November 2011 the party ran candidates for both Mayor of Osaka City and Governor of Osaka Prefecture, and managed to win both elections.

The NIK was launched in September 2012 with the intent of continuing Hashimoto’s success in Osaka on the national stage. Shortly after, the party entered into negotiations with two other new parties: Minna no tō (“Your Party”), formed by secessionists from the LDP in 2009, and Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintarō’s Taiyō no tō (“Sunrise Party”). While Your Party eventually dropped out of the negotiations, the merger between the NIK and the Sunrise Party was announced on November 17, and Hashimoto and Ishihara assumed a form of dual leadership over the party. In the election a month later the NIK ran 172 candidates and won 54 seats, with almost 12% of the constituency vote.

While Hashimoto was a big name in Osaka, it was through Ishihara that the party rose to international fame. The writer-turned-politician has long been renowned for his often blunt statements about foreigners and for his ardent nationalism, and after he played a pivotal role in escalating the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands dispute during the first half of 2012, he became the face of modern Japanese nationalism in much of Western media. Since Ishihara joined the NIK, the party has come to play a large part in the narrative of Japan’s emerging new nationalism.

The question that needs to be asked, however, is whether this is fair. While it is true that the 21st century has seen a rise in nationalistic and xenophobic parties in many democratic states, in particular in Europe, it is questionable whether this narrative should be used to explain the success of the NIK in Japan. While individual politicians like Ishihara should not be detached from views they have expressed in the past, it is important to look at what the NIK itself actually stands for. As a populist and to some extent grassroots-based phenomenon, the NIK before the election summarized its core points into a manifesto of “eight measures for restoration” (ishin hassaku). This manifesto presents the core of NIK policy, but is surprisingly overlooked, in particular by Western media.

In this work, I aim to analyze the policies of the NIK as they were presented to the public before the election. As a tool for reading the material, I will use Norman Fairclough’s method of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), introduced in Language and Power (1989) and thoroughly applied on an empirical material in New Labour, New language? (2000). Through the use of Fairclough and CDA, I hope to emphasize the political language used by the NIK in their manifesto. The core question is, how does the NIK wish to introduce itself to their prospective voters? What issues are emphasized? My thesis is that the NIK is treated unjustly when, often based on Ishihara’s statements, they are discarded as simply a nationalist fringe movement. Rather than looking to the new European right-wing nationalist parties for a comparison, I believe that the policies expressed by the NIK more clearly reflect those of fiscal conservative republicans in the United States. By contextualizing the eight measures and presenting an in-depth analysis of the manifesto, I hope to offer a more nuanced view of a party that, while strong on issue of national integrity, is neither isolationist nor hostile towards neighboring countries. The NIK might certainly strive for a Japan that can say No, but in no way do they represent the return to militarism that some viewers abroad seem to fear.

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