Yascha Mounk, a political scientist well known in the United States, has spoken on the crisis of liberal democracy brought on by the global surge of populism.

When he came to Japan to participate in a symposium, he noted that it was the first nation where he saw no signs of an emerging populist movement among the many countries he had visited.

Populism is spreading in Donald Trump’s America, the Brexit-beleaguered Britain, Hungary and Brazil, among other countries.

Japan has been fortunate enough to be spared this trend, an observation we often hear from Western experts.

Populist politicians manipulate the sentiments of the masses. According to Mounk, their characteristics may be summed up as follows: They insist that they alone represent the people and that all opponents are evil; they disregard the nation’s judicial system and treat the media as the enemy; and they marginalize the rights of minorities.

How do these apply to the Japanese prime minister?

He has kept referring to the years of the former Democratic Party of Japan administration as a “nightmare.”

He ignored the government’s traditional interpretation of the Constitution in pushing his controversial national security legislation.

On the question of whether Japan has been untouched by populism, I would say it’s merely a matter of degree.

I think Mounk is half-right and half-wrong.

On Nov. 20, the Abe administration will become the longest-lived in the history of Japanese constitutionalism.

The last seven years since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power may be considered an era of semi-populism, rather than non-populism.

I just pray that when we look back on these years, we will not be lamenting that they were an “incubation period” for the sort of flagrant populism of Trump’s America.

Social media is replete with posts that reflect the social divide, economic stagnation and hatred for immigrants. Mounk warns that this growing global trend is serving as a hotbed of populism.

No one can say that Japan is immune from any of these factors.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 19

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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.