A new name unveiled by Japan’s main opposition party and a smaller group with which it is set to merge has come under fire, as analysts warn the the rebranding could more harm than good just months away from a national election. Leaders of the two parties announced the new name, Minshinto – provisionally translated as Democratic Innovation Party (DIP) – on Monday based on surveys asking voters to choose between two options. The bigger Democratic Party of Japan will thus abandon a label under which it has battled Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party for two decades, but which for many voters is associated with a 2009-2012 DPJ reign marked by policy flipflops and missteps.
Many in the DPJ were chilly toward the new name, written with the same characters as the abbreviation of Taiwan’s incoming ruling party the Democratic Progressive Party, but the smaller Japan Innovation Party had insisted on a change as a condition for merging because of the perceived voter allergy to the old label.
Experts said relabeling could be a strategic mistake, especially since voters will have little time to grow accustomed to the new name by a July upper house election.
“The political science evidence is clear – changing the name is a bad idea,” said Chuo University political science professor Steven Reed. “It’s a bad idea for winning elections.”