Hopes, responsibilities of new Diet members
As a result of the change of government, the House of Representatives chamber will have a completely different look when a special Diet session convenes Wednesday. The seats allocated to the largest party in the lower house, which are located to the speaker's right, will be taken by the Democratic Party of Japan, instead of the Liberal Democratic Party.
Of the DPJ seats, nearly half will be occupied by the 143 members who were elected to the Diet for the first time. The first-time Diet members include former employees of private firms and local assembly members. Some of them previously worked as bureaucrats and as secretaries for Diet members. Among the freshmen, some have absolutely no experience in politics.
How will politics change under the DPJ government and what policies will actually be carried out? Those putting on their Diet members tags for the first time on Wednesday will immediately come under close scrutiny.
Duties of representatives
"Daigishi," as lower house members are called, means a person who discusses state affairs on behalf of the public. First of all, newly elected lawmakers should once again carefully read the Constitution--the basic law of the land--and the Diet Law, which stipulates the rules of the Diet.
It is also important that they proceed with their work keeping an up-to-date image in their minds of the times and the future direction of the nation as a whole.
Of the 83 so-called Koizumi Kids, who were selected by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and who swept to victory in the 2005 lower house election, only nine were reelected this time as LDP candidates.
The DPJ's first-time Diet members should keep in mind that they, too, could face the same destiny. They should remember that more important than anything else is to work steadily on a daily basis on their duties for the Diet and their local constituencies.
When former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone attended the Diet for the first time, he wore a black tie, saying that he did so because the country would remain in mourning as long as it was occupied by the United States. It was a start befitting Nakasone, who went on to call for Japan to write its own constitution and, as prime minister, for the issues blighting Japan's postwar political system to be settled once and for all.
All the newly elected Diet members will undoubtedly have their own political beliefs and ideals. We hope that they will not forget these aspirations that they have in their minds on their first official day in the Diet.
Fall not into temptation
Many Diet member activities are supported by taxpayers' money paid to them in the form of annual allowances and party subsidies. Diet members have privileges and face financial temptations when it comes to dealing with vested interests.
Given these factors, it is important they keep themselves on the straight and narrow, never forgetting the viewpoint of the ordinary man in the street.
Sooner or later, the newly elected Diet members will be stationed as parliamentary secretaries or other posts in government ministries and agencies.
Unlike their seniors, newly elected DPJ members will start their careers as lawmakers in the ruling camp. Therefore, they will be in the position of "directing" officials in government departments rather than "challenging" them.
They will probably find it difficult to work effectively with government officials at first. But they will find it better to try working with bureaucrats, with a willingness to learn from their specialized administrative expertise.
Only trouble will result if they come to represent the clanlike interests of certain industries and prefectures. Instead, becoming well-versed in policy matters will be a powerful tool for getting their points across to bureaucrats.
Meanwhile, the LDP has only five newly elected Diet members. But this means they will have a great opportunity to engage in a variety of tasks. We hope that as members of an opposition party, they will work with a strong determination to keep a close eye on the administration led by the incoming prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 16, 2009)