DPJ must stop 'cop-out tactics'
Public expectations that the latest Diet session would usher in an era of "new politics" following last year's change of government have faded. Instead, the session showed all too clearly the deteriorating state of politics in this country.
The ordinary Diet session ended Wednesday. Political parties have now started preparing for the House of Councillors election scheduled for July 11.
The Democratic Party of Japan recently withdrew a proposal to hold a budget committee meeting and decided against extending the Diet session. These actions can only be criticized as "cop-outs" and neglecting the party's duty.
The two-day session of interpellations by party representatives regarding new Prime Minister Naoto Kan's policy speech was too short. More intensive discussions should have been made at the budget committees of both Diet chambers.
It also remains unclear how the Kan administration differs from the previous one of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, which ended up disappointing many people.
Although Kan made no secret of the fact that his selection of cabinet ministers and top DPJ leaders were intended to rid the party of the influence of former DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, the shape and direction of his policies--a key point for the new administration--remain opaque.
How will the new administration put the fiscal house in order and reform the tax system? How will it soothe strained bilateral ties with the United States?
Don't put party 1st
In an ideal political world, the administration would face the upper house election only after clarifying--through Diet deliberations--the course for policies the Kan administration hopes to accomplish.
The DPJ avoided budget committee deliberations apparently because it felt the party would have the upper hand in the upcoming election while public approval ratings for the DPJ-led administration, which rose with the new cabinet, remain high.
These are tactics that put party interests before all else. Giving the ultimate priority to winning the election speaks volumes of the party's complete disregard for Diet affairs.
The DPJ-led coalition government did not hold a meeting of the Deliberative Council on Political Ethics, which Ozawa had indicated he would attend to clarify his involvement in a political funds scandal. The government's decision has prevented it from fulfilling its accountability.
When a scandal over questionable office expenses made by a political organization of Satoshi Arai, state minister in charge of national policy and consumer affairs, surfaced, the DPJ-led administration tried to sweep the issue under the carpet.
The DPJ must realize that its attempts to conceal swirling suspicions only amplify public distrust of politics.
Several bills the government and ruling coalition had considered important did not get passed into law during the Diet session. These bills included one on postal service reforms, measures to combat global warming and one that would establish a decision-making system at the initiative of politicians.
LDP has lost its bite
The DPJ-led administration used its superior weight of numbers to manage Diet affairs even more high-handedly than Liberal Democratic Party-led administrations did. However, it appears disarray within the government and the ruling coalition parties over key policies and the simultaneous resignations of Hatoyama and Ozawa affected the fate of these bills.
Just 54.7 percent of government-proposed bills passed the Diet during the session--a postwar low. We do not think the DPJ has fulfilled its responsibility as the party in power.
On the other hand, the LDP failed to make its presence felt as the largest opposition party. The LDP failed to put the government on the defensive and present better counterproposals. LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki's kid-glove questions during Diet debates between the prime minister and opposition party leaders, and the party's tired old tactics of boycotting the Diet session also triggered grumbling within party ranks.
A string of new parties have appeared on the scene, such as the Sunrise Party of Japan, New Renaissance Party and the Spirit of Japan Party. Their emergence reflects discontent at the fecklessness of the two major parties--the DPJ and the LDP.
The election is just around the corner. Political parties must try to restore people's trust in politics by discussing responsible and basic policies, rather than competing with one another with claptrap election pledges.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 17, 2010)