The Happiness Realization Party, the political wing of new-age religion Happy Science, has scored its first seat in Japan’s legislature. Yasuhiro Oe (pictured), a proportional representation member of the upper house, has announced his intentions to change affiliation. The move comes after Oe chose not to join his comrades in the Japan Renaissance Party (改革クラブ) as it transformed into former health minister Yoichi Masuzoe’s new Nihon Rennaissance Party (新党改革). Oe commented that he joined because he shares most of the same conservative principals as HRP.
In a blog post, Oe writes that HRP had approached him last year about running with their backing in the 2009 lower house election, but he did not know enough about the group to accept. However, he has since learned that party leader Ryuho Okawa is a man with strong beliefs, the party shares his views on issues that are important to him, and that Happy Science is not one of those “questionable, strange religions” that forces people to spend money on expensive altars/shrines or makes them beat drums. (According to this anti-cult website, Okawa makes most of his money by making followers buy his published works). Add to that the recent drama with his former colleagues, and that was enough to make the switch. He is apparently not a Happy Science adherent.
I had not heard of Oe before now, but according to Wikipedia he has a history of switching affiliations. The Wakayama native first became an upper house member in 2001 as a PR candidate on the LDP ticket, then as a DPJ candidate in 2007. He later joined JRP as a founding member in 2008, citing problems with the DPJ’s methods. In terms of policy, he has adopted some typical right-wing positions – he’s pro-Taiwan, a firm Nanjing Massacre truther, and a vocal supporter of the victims of North Korea’s kidnapping program. He comes up for reelection in 2013. As Happy Science’s go-to man in the Diet, Oe will have the power to question government officials to try and get them on the record on issues relevant to the party. At the very least, you can probably expect some fairly bizarre formal written questions to the cabinet coming from Oe’s office.
The Happiness Realization Party was founded in May 2009 ahead of last year’s election season, fielding candidates for the Tokyo prefectural assembly and then in the historic lower house election in August on a radical program of major social upheaval and fiery neoconservative bluster. They failed to win a seat in any of the races, which cost them a lot of money in lost candidacy deposits. There have been organizational setbacks, too – weeks before the lower house election they announced they were pulling out of the race entirely before reversing themselves just three days later. And in its year of existence the party has had a total of six leaders (even worse than the LDP’s turnover rate!).
Money and bumbling will not stop these people, however – they just might be here to stay. Wikipedia says a candidate HRP backed in Machida-shi won a city assembly seat, which is a tangible success. The posters are still around Adachi-ku. Their website is packed with content and activity, including official commentary on the scandals of the day, ranging from the Ozawa scandal to Princess Aiko’s bullying troubles (their typically hard-line solution – radical reform of the teachers’ unions and a sweeping “bullying prevention law”). And they have already announced more than 20 candidates for the upper house elections this July.
If they can’t manage to actually win elections on a national level, convincing sitting members to switch parties like this might be a good way to get their foot in the door, especially in this time of party realignment.
For more info on what the Happiness Realization Party stands for, check out my post from last year’s election season.
PS: This is my first in what will hopefully be a regular series of posts on the upcoming election. Stay tuned!