Doi Determined to Tap into Anti-PKO Sentiment

By Brian Covert
Staff Writer

NISHINOMIYA, Hyogo — Takako Doi, the outspoken political opposition figure, vows to do everything in her power to see that next month’s national elections reflect public opinion against the recently passed PKO bill.

Doi, the House of Representatives member for this district and former chairwoman of the Socialist Democratic Party, may just be the party’s best weapon against the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party at the polls.

“People are increasingly opposed to the law,” Doi said in an exclusive interview with the Mainichi Daily News.

“It’s unthinkable that public opinion would reverse (in favor of it). I’m determined to make this election one where that sentiment is evident in the ballot results.”

Half of the 252 Upper House seats in the Diet will be up for grabs in the elections. The LDP’s backing of the controversial bill authorizing overseas dispatch of Self-Defense Forces will no doubt be the key issue.

Doi, or “Otaka-san” as she is affectionately called by supporters, is best known for her party’s leadership in the 1989-90 elections that dealt a severe blow to the LDP, causing it to lose its Upper House majority for the first time since coming to power in 1955.

In July 1991, Doi retired from the top post of a party that has toned down much of its former hard-line socialist ideology and that, as many of its followers at the grass-roots level have criticized, is more willing to compromise with the LDP party on key issues.

Though she has left the SDP spotlight, in the public eye Doi remains as charismatic and popular as ever. Some political observers attribute that to her outgoing personality, unabashed criticism of the political establishment and possibly to her avid support of the Hanshin Tigers baseball team — characteristics not uncommon of residents of the Kansai region.

But Doi herself has a simpler theory.

“…There are many things that politicians don’t want the public to hear and know about,” explains the 63-year-old native of Kobe. “But I say whatever is on my mind. And when I’m asked about something I don’t know, I tell people I’ll find out and make it clear. Maybe that could be why people empathize with me.”

When asked what changes in the government she would undertake if she were prime minister, she replies without hesitation that regaining the public’s trust in government would be at the top of the list.

But her most immediate concern is the July elections. A recent Mainichi poll shows that public opposition to PKO and the intended dispatch of SDF personnel to Cambodia has more than doubled since last September.

Doi wants to translate that public sentiment into voter rejection of the LDP for its “hasty” passage of the bill. She retains her faith that an otherwise apathetic electorate will send a clear message against Japan’s new military role in the international community.

“The bill was enacted against the rule of democracy,” Doi said. “It’s abnormal. The upcoming elections are really necessary now, because we need to ask for the people’s judgment.”