Some factors about what might determine actual policy change under the new J Govt

There are diverse factors, external, internal, structural and social, that will influence the development of human rights policy and behavior.

The DPJ Manifesto prioritizes a shift in the power of balance between lawmakers and bureaucrats. The purpose would be to have lawmakers take both more responsibility and have more power over policy, whereas currently bureaucrats have strong power over the contents of bills and processes. This change may enable more policy transformation if the new lawmakers are up to the task. Since ministry bureaucrats have been in place over 10, 20 or more years and have weathered leader changes over the years, this power shift will be neither easy not swift.

The DPJ and its coalition partners include people from a wide spectrum for far right to far left. Although they were aligned in their opposition to the LDP, it does not mean they are in agreement on rights issues or policies

Under a DPJ-lead government, there is more space for civil society to have influence. According to Yuriko Hara, the Secretary-General of the International Movement Against all forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), under the LDP it was not easy for many organizations to get a foot in the door whereas now with the DPJ, the key door may have been found. However, this alone does not guarantee influence, it is unclear how civil society input would be incorporated.

Since several New Diet members come to government with experience in local nonprofits and NGOs involved in international work, there are some encouraging signs. For example, the director of Peace Boat was elected and a new lawmaker with background in social welfare was elected in Nagasaki over a long time LDP politician. Community groups and NGOs can play an important role in educating lawmakers and bureaucrats as well as the public about human rights issues. How effectively civil society campaigns and uses this new space will also be telling.

Another important factor may be how long the DPJ is able to stay in power and if they are able to maintain public support. Policy changes to the problems listed in this article are only possible over an extended period of time. Public opinion voted for change but it does not necessarily mean the general public is open to drastically new policies. Although polls show the Hatoyama cabinet has had strong public support, it is still the honeymoon period. Should the DPJ hold on to their power and hold on to the public’s support then they are more likely to have a meaningful impact.

Other key considerations will be the funds required and where the issues are on the pecking order. It will easy for the new DPJ-led government to put off any development that require resources due to financial circumstances but it may be simply about leadership defining the priorities, developing strategy and leading the way by developing political will.

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