Right wing new-age cult party lands a Diet seat

Troubling news:

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.

HRP Update

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.

(via J-Cast)

PS: This is my first in what will hopefully be a regular series of posts on the upcoming election. Stay tuned!

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20 thoughts on “Right wing new-age cult party lands a Diet seat”

  1. I dunno. Japan always needed a party like this, and now it has two. My guess is that both the HRP and Erection! Japan! parties will just make the loopy nationalist fringe more visible, allowing the voters to eliminate them more easily than if they are lurking around under LDP or DPJ cover. They may win a few seats, and hey, might even be part of a coalition government, but I suspect they will never hold the balance.

  2. Joins HRP merely because he can – not a good thing, but fear not people like him will just jump ship again. He’s one of those “does not play well with others” types who won’t be able to tolerate it as soon as the HRP starts giving him “guidance”.

    Nanking Truther – that is problematic.

    Pro Taiwan – this is a bad thing? Being for democracy? Taiwan may not be perfect, but they’ve come a long way, and as a matter of principle they should be supported over the totalitarian mainland regime on any day.

    Vocal supporter of the victims of North Korea’s kidnapping program – again, isn’t this a good thing? Far better than Ozawa’s brilliant “Just go over with a briefcase of money and say ‘give me someone'” (I’m paraphrasing but…) comment.

    Ah, but then again, Ozawa and briefcases of money just go together so naturally…

  3. I wonder how you’d define what kinds of parties Japan needs. By election results, the public seems to have very little use for HRP at the moment, probably even less than the Tachiagare party which is at least made up of long-serving career politicians.

    It should be noted that a proportional representation member of the upper house is right at the bottom of the Diet food chain in terms of public mandate.

    Also, it still looks tough for HRP to pick up a seat this year. There are 48 PR seats in the upper house, so to win a seat a party would need around 2% of the vote. Since HRP got 0.65% of the PR vote in the 2009 election, they would need to triple their level of support to get just one seat in the upper house. Unless the political winds shift in the party’s favor, switching to HRP might be political suicide for Oe who comes up for reelection in 2013. But hey who knows, this guy’s loyalty is so frivolous he might try and sign up with whatever party seems likely to win (Your Party maybe?)

  4. I am not passing judgment on his policies per se, just noting they are typically held by right wingers for various reasons. For example it’s common to see views that Taiwan is a successful example of the results of Japanese colonization. Maybe Roy can offer some more details on that

  5. “I wonder how you’d define what kinds of parties Japan needs.”

    I’d define it by looking at all the various philosophies there were in the LDP, and that there still are in the DPJ, trying to come up with a typology which puts the them in some sensible order, and then give each grouping of individuals that can be delineated as best as possible according to said philosophies a bunch of bumper stickers and balloons with their own nifty logos on them and some air time on the TV. Or “realignment,” as they used to call it.

    By that standard, Japan needs a bat-shit crazy, change-the-constitution, honor-our-sacred-heritage, fear-North-Korea, Taiwan-is-what-Japan-used-to-be, stick-it-to-whitey-and-the-U.S. party. That’s what they have with Hiranuma’s crew. With the possible exception of the final criterion, that seems to be what HRP is offering too.

    As I said, these parties provide a service to Japan by outing the nutbags so the voters can target them for oblivion, rather than have like-minded members get in on a mainstream ticket.

  6. “Pro Taiwan – this is a bad thing? Being for democracy? Taiwan may not be perfect, but they’ve come a long way, and as a matter of principle they should be supported over the totalitarian mainland regime on any day.”

    As Adam said, there is trend (in my view a somewhat depressing one) for Japanese right-wingers to be FAR more supportive of Taiwanese independence than left-wingers or moderates. In fact, this is even true in the US, and perhaps other places. It doesn’t mean that NOBODY on the left or center supports Taiwan – far from it – but in many cases strong support for Taiwan is also related to right-wing anti-China bias, and in the case of Japan, is also related to having a rosy-eyed view of Japanese colonialism. This attitude is substantially different from those who support Taiwan in the name of democracy and the principle of self determination, even if they end up in a similar place.

    I mean, personally I’m very pro-Taiwan, but that’s a position reached from living there and I wouldn’t say my attitude is very similar to say, the schlock you find in Kobayashi Yoshinori’s “Taiwan-ron” or any of the many other books about Taiwan published by right-wing authors in Japan.

  7. Another sad fact about this development – with one member, this places HRP even with Your Party in terms of upper house seats, and just one behind the Sunrise Japan (Tachagare) Party.

  8. @ Adamu – yeah, so HRP now has one (ONE!) member in the upper house. None in the lower. And I have a got feeling he will not be an HRP member for long. He seems like an attention whore who will doubtless jump ship yet again, probably as soon as some one from the cult informs him “it ain’t about you, it is about the Prophet”. Or else, as soon as he sobers up and realizes that as the lone member, he will get exactly 0 yen in election assistance from the State, plus as a PR Diet member without a “star” to hitch his wagon to he won’t be back in August 2013.

    Perhaps he will get some satisfaction from outlasting “Masuzoe’s” “party”, though.

  9. With the upper house majority in peril, there is always the off chance Oe will be invited to join a coalition, which would open the door to Okawa being appointed a non-MP cabinet minister (which is how Heizo Takenaka got started under Koizumi). It’s unlikely but worth noting.

  10. Actually the right wing in America are pro-Taiwan-independence only when they want to be. From what I can tell, most of them hated Chen Shui-bian’s guts because he had the potential to create problems. In contrast, the right in Japan loves them some DPP. And if the DPP people I’ve talked to every now and then are any indication, the feeling is mutual.

  11. BTW I read Taiwan-ron, but I can’t remember Kobayashi saying anything about the fact that it was the United States that forced Japan to recognize the ROC, when Yoshida and Japanese business leaders wanted to recognize the PRC. I wonder what he thinks about that.

  12. The HRP held a press conference today yesterday to officially announce Oe’s switch. You can watch it here:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/hrpchannel

    In it, they suggested a plan to team up with other opposition parties to deprive the DPJ of its majority in the Upper House. That way they can slow down the DPJ agenda until the next general election.

  13. Also from the press conference:

    Oe is “99% in agreement” with the HRP’s policies, except for the creation of strong executive branch led by a president, which he describes as “the other 1%.” Which is weird because I feel like he’s got the ratios reversed – radically reforming the government into a presidential dictatorship is probably their biggest priority.

  14. “strong executive branch led by a president”

    They claim to have gotten this idea from Emperor Meiji in a dream. I’m not kidding.

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