Catchy names for Japan's many political parties

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This weekend Japanese voters will be choosing members of Japan's Upper House. A dozen parties are on the ballot, and some of the newer ones have come up with some unusual names to try to appeal to apathetic voters. Akiko Fujita has more from Tokyo.

MARCO WERMAN: I'm Marco Werman and this is The World. Voters in the US usually have it pretty easy. They generally have to choose between two, or occasionally three or four, political parties. Compare that with Japan. Voters this weekend will elect the members of Japan's upper house and they'll find a dozen parties on the ballot. Only two parties are likely to get significant numbers of votes. They are the ruling Democratic Party and the Liberal Democrats, or LDP. But Akiko Fujita reports from Tokyo that some of those small parties are making a lot of noise.

AKIKO FUJITA: Election season in Japan can feel a little overwhelming. There's the megaphones on campaign vans that candidates use to blare their message across town. The supporters who follow those vans, while passing out fliers on the streets. And this year, there's also a dizzying number of political parties.


FUJITA: Voter Yoshimi Tsuzuki says so many small parties have emerged, because everyone's lost faith in the Liberal Democrats and ruling Democratic Party of Japan. It's a sad state of Japanese politics. It's not just the number of parties that's made a splash in this election. It's also their names. There's the Stand Up Japan Party, the New Renaissance Party, the Spirit of Japan Party, and the most popular Your party. Political Science Professor Yasunori Sone says the parties are using catchy names to draw in supporters, though their policies aren't that different from those of the main parties.

YASUNORI SONE: Attractive name is important, particularly for the non-partisan voters. Attractive means very difficult to define.

FUJITA: The new parties this year are all made up of former LDP members. Sone says members of the opposition often chose to start their own party to gain more influence. And that's not difficult in Japan. It only takes five parliamentary members to become an official party, and each new party automatically gets public funding. Critics say these parties only exist to rake in political funds. Former Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano denies that. He's the founder of the Stand Up Japan Party. He concedes that each lawmaker from his party will receive nearly half a million dollars this year, but he says money isn't driving his group. Yosano says he left the LDP because that party refused to challenge the ruling party on its handling of the massive public debt.

KAORU YOSANO: We have come to the edge of the cliff, so we can't deceive ourselves, we can't deceive our people anymore.

FUJITA: That message hasn't caught on with voters. Polls suggest less than 10 percent of the public support these alternative parties. And history shows, these parties tend to disband after 3 to 4 years.


FUJITA: Voter Hiroshi Gunji tells me he doesn't think many of these small parties will last. He says they'll eventually team up with the bigger parties or just band together to form one large party. This is just the beginning of larger party realignment. Yosano of the Stand Up Japan Party doesn't deny that. In fact, he says one of his goals is to shake up the current system. He insists his party is in it for the long haul, but adds he wouldn't rule out forming a coalition with the ruling party, if it came calling. For The World, I'm Akiko Fujita in Tokyo.