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Japanese Tea?

Free market crusader Watanabe poised for big gains in Japanese elections.

4:53 PM, Jul 8, 2010 • By ADAM BRICKLEY
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Japan heads to the polls on Sunday to elect the upper house of its national legislature – and no matter what the result, Yoshimi Watanabe and his newly-minted Your Party will be big winners.

Japanese Tea?

Yoshimi Watanabe

Watanabe is leading a small government revolution against the world’s most bloated bureaucracy. And a strong showing on Sunday could give him the balance of power in the House of Councillors.

Watanabe founded the Your Party just before last year’s election of the more powerful House of Representatives. It was a break from the big government “conservative” Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had governed almost uninterrupted for 50 years. Running on the promise of slashing bureaucracy, he won only 5 seats as the left wing Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) came to power – but he’s gained more steam as voters realize that the two major parties present a false choice between big government (LDP) and even bigger government (DPJ).

Now, he’s shooting to win 20 of the 121 upper house seats up for election this year (there are 242 total seats) – running on a scorched-earth platform that includes massive deregulation of the economy and halving the 40 percent corporate tax. Media predictions indicate that he will win only nine seats – but even that number would make him the big winner of the election, as the DPJ appears headed for a big loss and the LDP is not expected to gain much ground.

Looking ahead, the Your Party seems to be headed for even bigger success. The DPJ’s popularity has tanked only one year after it’s historic victory – and its only saving grace at the moment is that it is enjoying a slight bounce after replacing Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama with Naoto Kan last month. The LDP is hardly doing better – gaining little in the polls despite the DPJ collapse, and seeing no fewer than three new parties splinter out of its ranks this year (the Your Party, the Sunrise Party, and the New Renaissance Party). As the Your Party continues to gain support, Yoshimi Watanabe appears to be brewing a Japanese Tea Party.

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