The Japanese word for rebellion, "zohan," is derived from Chinese. It carries more than a hint of justice.
"Muhon," or insurrection, implies an act of disloyalty against one's master driven by personal grudges, whereas rebellion gives the impression of openly and squarely fighting for a cause. Apparently, it is a remnant of the slogan "zaofan youli" (to rebel is justified) advocated during China’s chaotic Cultural Revolution.
At the June 26 Lower House plenary session, dozens of lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan rebelled against their party and opposed bills to raise the consumption tax rate. Even though party regulations obliged them to support the bills, 57 DPJ members voted against them, at the risk of being subjected to disciplinary measures.
Including those who abstained after wavering or were absent, one in four DPJ Lower House members turned their backs on their party’s policy. Lawmakers who cast blue dissenting votes with determination appeared to say their action was justified.
Former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa, who led the rebellion, smiled after the vote and reportedly said “Good!” several times. Ozawa, who believes in the force of numbers, seemed happy that so many DPJ members opposed the bills. Some observers say he is getting ready to quit the party with fellow members.
At a news conference, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda sounded angry and vowed to deal strictly with dissenters. Be that as it may, if heavy punishment unexpectedly boosts the membership of "a new Ozawa party," the ruling parties would no longer be able to hold a majority in the Lower House. While the proposed tax hike is a long-cherished dream of the Noda administration, it could cause it to fall apart.
At any rate, when the bills were put to a vote, the white votes in favor of the legislation far outnumbered the blue votes opposing it. As a result, tax increases have been set in motion.
The consumption tax rate will rise to 8 percent in spring 2014 and 10 percent in fall 2015. The increases are expected to impose more than 10 trillion yen ($125.83 billion) a year in additional tax payments.
The government will need to provide relief measures for low-income earners, whose burden will weigh heavily.
This is no time for internal strife. There are many problems that need to be discussed between the ruling and opposition parties, such as revamping the social security system and cutting wasteful spending.
The public approval rating for the Noda administration is between 20 and 30 percent.
Most voters have long been holding blue votes in their hands. What the government should fear is rebellion by the people.
--The Asahi Shimbun, June 27
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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