The old joke about Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is that it was neither liberal, democratic, nor even a proper party. Cobbled together from a ragbag of anti-socialist factions in the 1950s, the LDP nevertheless held together for over half a century before coming unstitched in 2009. Now, history seems to be repeating itself, as 14 different political parties have mobilised since Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, called a general election for December 16th. As Mr Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) weakens, most of the newer parties are on the right, united in their desire to revitalise Japan, a strategy reflected in some of their names: Sunrise, Restoration, Renaissance. The question for Japan’s voters is whether anything else unites them?
Two minor parties led by local Japanese politicians—who have stirred controversy with hawkish views on matters ranging from relations with China to Japan’s wartime past—formally merged Saturday as campaigning for the Dec. 16 national election ground into gear. With the most recent opinion poll showing the ruling Democratic Party of Japan trailing the opposition Liberal Democratic Party but narrowing the gap, the former governor of Tokyo and the mayor of Osaka jointly presented what they said will be an alternative force in Japanese politics at a news conference. But while Shintaro Ishihara, the former governor of the capital, and Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto both have local power bases and have garnered support in polls in recent months, a survey conducted Thursday and Friday by Japanese daily newspaper Asahi showed both minor parties still trailing the incumbent DPJ and opposition LDP by a long way. More than half of those polled, however, said they supported no particular political party.