July 23, 2017

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Forum4

What is Forum4?

Forum4 is a social movement that supports both pacifism and the structural reform of the economy. It also advocates for the elimination of nuclear energy programs and the transition to alternative energy. Forum4 was founded by Shigeaki Koga, a political commentator and a former career bureaucrat in the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). Koga began contemplating the creation of Forum4 in 2013 and launched it in March 2015. As of August 2016, the organization has approximately 2700 onymous supporters. The members come from many walks of lives, including housewives, activists, artists, teachers, retired elderly and members of the parliament amongst others.

Forum 4 is a reference to the fourth quadrant in the following diagram.

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The vertical axis represents militarism versus pacifism. The horizontal axis represents support for the economic status quo versus structural reform of the economy. Koga recognized that the major parties took up positions in each one of the other three quadrants. No party, however, had both renounced wars of aggression and opposed to the deployment of the armed forces abroad as well as called for breaking up the vested interests in the economy and redistributing influence and wealth to regular citizens. Koga established Forum4 to represent the voices of citizens who occupied the fourth quadrant. Koga concluded that declining voter turnout over recent elections was not the result of people becoming disinterested in politics, but rather the absence of a party that spoke to their concerns. The aim of Forum4 is to demonstrate to MPs and the political parties that there are many people who are opposed to both militarism abroad and the economic status quo at home.

Not a Political Party, But a Social Movement

Forum4 is often mistakenly believed to be a political party, but it is actually a social movement. Originally, Koga thought that a new political party was needed to represent the fourth quadrant, but he concluded that there were a great amount of hesitation amongst MPs about starting a new political party. Due to the emergence of many new political parties in recent years, MPs doubted that a new party would be effective politically. Therefore, Koga decided to start Forum 4 as a civil society group rather than a political party.

Koga argues that after the campaign against the Japan-US Security Treaty in the 1960s and 1970s, the debate over Japan’s place on the vertical axis remained a relatively minor issue for a long time. It was revived when Abe became prime minister. With regard to the horizontal axis, debates about whether the government should engage in structural reforms have been common in Japanese politics since late 1980s.

After Japan enjoyed a period of rapid economic growth in the 1960’s and 1970s, a strong economy throughout the 1980s, and an economic crash at the end of the 1980s, Koga argues that Japan has been plagued with four major issues. First, Japan has become a country with large deficits. Second, Japan has neglected to deal with its decreasing birth rate and aging population. This problem was anticipated by the LDP at least thirty years ago, but it did not take effective countermeasures. Third, Japan has suffered from long term lack of economic growth. Fourth, there has been a perpetuation of the myth that nuclear energy is safe. This invited the 2011 Fukushima accident, and Koga argues that the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) bears responsibility even though the accident occurred during a Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administration.

For most of the post-WWII period, the Japanese government has been dominated by the LDP. There are only a few exceptions, such as Hosokawa government between 1993 and 1994 and the DPJ government between 2009 and 2012. As a result, Koga says that the four problems described above are the creation of the LDP. They are the “four deadly sins” of LDP governance.

“Four deadly sins” of LDP might seem to be unnecessarily harsh, but actually Koga is not the first person who used this phrase. The first person to utter these words was actually Shinjiro Koizumi, the eldest son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who is now an LDP MP and a member of the Lower House. Prior to the LDP regaining control of the government, Koga was invited to a study group by several young reformist members of the LDP to reflect on what was wrong with LDP governance. After hearing Koga lecture for a while, Koizumi raised his hand and said he felt like the LDP committed “three deadly sins” (he did not include the problem of economic growth). He went on to say that if the LDP did not reform themselves and address the three problems, LDP leadership would not last long even if the LDP became the leading party again. Koga largely agreed with what Koizumi stated and was inspired to use the phrase, the “four deadly sins” of the LDP.

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He argues that on horizontal axis, debates about whether politicians should reform three things have persisted: (1) vested interests, (2) the power of the bureaucracy, and (3) baramaki. Baramaki is the practice of spending government money on policies that bring profit to supporters of the leading political parties. Conservative politicians have traditionally belonged on the left side of the horizontal axis and not been interested in reform of these three areas, whereas reformists are the opposite.

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Foreign and security policy became a major point of contention in 2012 when the second Abe administration was established.On one side was Abe and his allies who supported a more militaristic policy and on the other side those who advocated for Japan holding to its traditional policy of pacifism. Foreign and security policy had been a minor issue since 1960’s and 1970’s, and had little effect in terms of structuring party competition. Abe, however, started to push more hawkish policy stance, including changing the interpretation of the Article 9 of the constitution that codified pacifism. The reinterpretation of Article 9 that the Abe administration advocated would allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense and deploy Japan’s Self Defense Force abroad in the event that an ally was attacked. Abe also aspired to amend constitution and  promoted the nuclear energy program. While Abe began to pursue these policies when he took office for the first time in 2007, his administration only lasted for about a year because he fell ill. Only with the return to office in 2012 did Abe’s hawkish policy agenda start to get some traction. 

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Koga argues that some people between the ages of 20 and 50 believe that the Abe administration is closer to the fourth quadrant than it really is, since Prime Minister Abe claims that his security legislation is a way to promote proactive pacifism and major pillars of his Abenomics are important reforms. However, Koga argues that this is an incorrect view and in his opinion, the proactive pacifism that Abe claims is nothing more than militarism by a different name. He also argues that Abenomics has not brought about any genuine reforms.

Koga argues that the LDP is currently in the second quadrant, since Prime Minister Abe has pursued constitutional reforms and amendment of laws for more active military actions. He states that in the LDP, there used to be pacifist MPs in the third quadrant as well as warlike members in second quadrant. However, during the Abe administration, many LDP members have moved right upwards in the diagram. Now, most members of LDP belongs to the second quadrant. Likewise, the LDP’s coalition partner, Komei Party, used to be in the third quadrant since it was the party of peace. However, it is now between the second and third quadrants, since it has been pulled up during Prime Minister Abe’s term.

Koga also argues that within Democratic Party of Japan, there are MPs of different opinions, so substantial number of DPJ members are in the first quadrant while others are in the third quadrant. In his opinion, the Japan Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party belong to the third quadrant because they incline to baramaki policy.

When studying the positions of all parties, he noticed that none of them belonged to the fourth quadrant that wants reform, but not war. In his opinion, many independent voters belong to the fourth quadrant. By demonstrating that there are many people who belong to Forum4, Koga has tried to urge MPs and the political parties to represent their opinions in politics.

Below are the principles of Forum 4.

To give maximum priority to the wellbeing of current and future citizens.

To make political decision-making open and transparent.

To let the private sector take on many more functions.

To  respect the autonomy of local governments and allow them to do what they are able to do.

To reduce the power of vested interests, from Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, Japan Medical Association to Japan Agricultural Cooperative, and ensure that citizens’ interests are protectedPromote fair competition so that those who contribute to society are ensured a decent living standard and the benefits of cooperation are shared by all.

To reorient pro-growth policies away from mass production and consumption to elevating the quality of life for all citizens.

To live harmoniously with nature and cultivate an awareness that we are supported by the natural environment.

To  make alternative energy a core pillar for the revitalization of local economy.

To permanently close nuclear power plants and make Japan the leading country in the use of alternative energy.

To carry out diplomacy and security policy based on the principle of genuine pacifism instead of Abe administration’s “proactive pacifism” (which is practically militarism).

To maintain the view that the collective self-defense is a violation of the Constitution and should note be tolerated.

To take pride in the peaceful life that our people have built for 70 years after WWⅡ and  oppose the amendment of the Article 9 of the Constitution.

To change the impression that Japan will engage in military actions overseas with the US by reclaiming Japan’s pacifism brand and devoting itself to humanitarian aid for suffering countries.

To guarantee administrative information disclosure thoroughly and restore freedom of impression and freedom of the press.

Article and images by Japanese Perspective.

Source

Independent Web Journal by Yasumi Iwakami

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