Posted August. 19, 2009 08:45,
Rival parties in Japan yesterday began their official campaigns for the August 30 general elections. Media polls say the opposition Democratic Party of Japan is enjoying an overwhelming lead over the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
A poll released yesterday by the daily Asahi Shimbun said 41 percent of Japanese surveyed backs Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama as the next prime minister and 20 percent support incumbent Taro Aso.
With a historic shift in power looming large, the conventional dynamics of Japans political and economic communities are also expected to undergo major changes. Notably, the relationship between the Liberal Democratic Party and the Federation of Japanese Industries, or Keidanren, will see a seismic change.
We will not ask (the business community) for more political funds even if we gain power unless you pump political funds only into the Liberal Democratic Party as in the past, Democratic Party Secretary-General Katsuya Okada jokingly said in a policy briefing with Keidanren Aug. 4.
He metaphorically expressed regret over the amount of his partys political funds from the business community, which is less than one-30th of what the Liberal Democratic Party receives every year. Certain participants burst into laughter after Okadas statement, but senior staff from Keidanren looked highly embarrassed.
The business group made an unusual decision early this month by delaying two months its policy review of political parties, which it traditionally held immediately after policy briefings every year.
Japanese media say Keidanren, which has been closely collaborating with the ruling party since the partys establishment in 1955, has shifted its orientation to balanced diplomacy.
○ Inevitable sea of change
Keidanren and the Liberal Democratic Party have had a long and deep relationship. Since the Freedom Party and Democratic Party formed a conservative coalition in 1955, Keidanren has supported the ruling party, which rivaled the Social Party, under the pretext of preserving a free market economy.
The business organization provided its ally massive political funds and votes in every election, and got its demands reflected in government policies in return.
For this reason, the Liberal Democratic Party earned mostly A grades in Keidanrens policy review, which serves as the criteria for political fund allocation. In contrast, the Democratic Party received a below average grade of C.
The ruling party raised 2.91 billion yen (306 million U.S. dollars) in political funds in 2007, but the Democratic Party secured just 80 million yen (8.41 million dollars), which symbolizes the close ties between Keidanren and the Liberal Democrats.
○ Keidanren in agony
The Democratic Party says it needs to reestablish its relations with Keidanren. The party is poised to reshuffle Japans conventional social structure of a three-tier system of the government, business organizations, companies and the public into a two-tiered structure in which the government is directly linked to the public.
Business organizations used to play a bridging role between the government and the public (or companies), but are poised to see their presence waning.
A Keidanren source said, The conventional order in which everything was clear cut has become very obscure, adding, We are still looking at the Liberal Democratic Party but are nervous since we have no idea as to where to keep our eyes on.