Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's vital gamble has paid off. The triumph of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in the Sept. 11 lower house election has redefined Koizumi's neoconservative leadership for the next four years.
Japan has been desperate to revitalize its national pride. Prime Minister Koizumi's neo-conservatism uses a maverick image in order to satisfy modern people's expectations.
Japan's neoconservatism is a recent term used by the Asian media, referring to a new generation of Japanese conservatives. It conveys a common desire for national reinvigoration among Japanese elites and intellectuals.
The neoconservatives are distinguished from the older generation of Japanese conservatives with regard to their political attitude. Japanese "neos" take a more "active" view of the JSDF (Japan Self-Defense Forces).
The "neos" regard themselves as free from responsibility or guilt for Japan's conquests and wartime history. Meanwhile, they view China as a country that harbors historical grievances for political gain, rather than accepting Japan's apologies. As nationalists, the neos express strong national pride and stress Japan's international role.
Koizumi's overwhelmingly victory in the lower house election not only strengthens his leadership, but also shores up Japan's neo-conservatives. The LDP and its coalition ally will have a key two-thirds majority in the new parliament.
Domestically, it means Koizumi can now override most objections from the upper house and push through reforms.
Moreover, Koizumi's controversial foreign policy, such as dispatching troops to Iraq and his annual visits to the Yasukuni shrine, seem to be understood and tacitly approved by the Japanese public.
As nationalism ferments, Japanese neo-conservatism will continue being active in this country's political landscape. With his flowing hair and striking looks, charismatic Koizumi is leading the Japanese to a new era of neo-conservatism, though forthcoming challenges are inevitable.
Waseda University, Tokyo
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