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Friday, 23 June, 2000, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Japanese Communists win respect
Jobseekers search for work on computers
Job search: Unemployment is at 5%
By Charles Scanlon in Tokyo

They were persecuted before the war and scarcely tolerated afterwards, but Japan's Communist party is finally establishing itself as a respectable political force.

We aren't going to change the name because we haven't done anything wrong

Tetsuzo Fuwa, Chairman of the Japan Communist party

In Japan's general election on Sunday, the party is hoping to build on the 26 seats it held in the last parliament, and has ambitions to join an opposition coalition government.

It is hoping to win support from Japanese who have lost out during 10 years of economic stagnation.

Communist party member Taketoshi Nakajima does not mention a workers' revolution in his campaign speech.
A job for life is no longer a guarantee

On the contrary, he is offering support for small businesses, many of which are being driven under by the harsh economic climate.

One such person is fruit trader Shinichi Cato who says his sales have gone down by half since the economic boom of the 1980s.

He is interested in what Mr Nakajima has to say. At least the Communist party is consistent, he says.

Tax freeze

The Communist party is demanding a freeze on consumption tax and it is promising support for those most threatened by economic restructuring.
Japanese Prime Minister Mori
Prime Minister Mori accuses the party of not being patriotic

The party is doing well in housing estates, where the long economic recession means lifetime employment is now a thing of the past.

It is gaining support with those worried by rising taxes and declining income levels

The Prime Minister, Yoshiro Mori, has struck back. He has accused the party of lacking patriotism and of being a threat to national security.

It is a charge the communists are used to.


The party chairman, Tetsuzo Fuwa, says the Communists have refused to change their name even though that helps feed public suspicion.

"Many people are very suspicious of us because of our name," he says.

The Communists are hoping to increase their 26 seats in parliament

"But I think our actual policies are more important. We aren't going to change the name because we haven't done anything wrong.

"But we have been working hard to make people understand us better and I think that we are succeeding."

A vote for the Communists in Japan is considered a real protest vote against the government.

However, as free market reforms threaten to transform the economy, the Communists are looking increasingly like defenders of the status quo.

They have taken a stand for the certainties of the past and in defence of Japan's highly regulated economy.

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