--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 16
EDITORIAL: Kan's approval rating

The approval rating for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Naoto Kan took a nose dive to 27 percent in an Asahi Shimbun poll over the weekend.

The opposition camp continues to play hardball, and the government's supplementary budget bill is expected to clear the Lower House without support from New Komeito, whose cooperation the administration had counted on.

What lessons should the Kan administration infer from the latest figure? The reasons for the fall need to be analyzed.

First, the people were critical of the administration's policy choices and decisions.

If the criticism concerned divisive issues on which the administration had to make truly tough calls, we believe the administration should just bite the bullet and move on.

There is no question the administration took a big hit for its handling of an incident triggered by a Chinese trawler ramming two Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels off the disputed Senkaku Islands.

However, the administration is also responsible for preventing further outbreaks of nationalistic sentiment that have erupted in both Japan and China. There is no easy answer to how this responsibility should be handled.

If these were the factors that caused the approval rating to plummet, the Cabinet need not fret.

But there are also other factors the Kan administration should really be worried about.

Of the Asahi poll respondents who did not approve of the Cabinet's job performance, only 20-plus percent cited "policy" as their reason, while more than 60 percent cited "lack of ability to execute policy."

Does the administration lack the ability to get things done? Or is the real issue whether it is serious about implementing the measures it has promised? We have to presume this was the question those respondents had in mind.

Indeed, the Kan administration has done many things to invite that question.

On the "money and politics" issue, for instance, the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration has never gotten former party leader Ichiro Ozawa to explain himself before the Diet. The administration has resumed taking corporate and group donations, and is so far unsuccessful in achieving intraparty consensus on proposed pay cuts for Diet members.

On the Senkaku issue, the Kan administration has given the nation the impression that it would prefer to pass the buck to prosecutors and the Japan Coast Guard.

Having thus dithered and stumbled repeatedly, the administration has lost public support, which in turn has diminished its ability to implement policies. This is a vicious cycle, indeed.

Could it be that the DPJ is still unused to governing?

Not only does the Kan administration lack the experience to forge a consensus as the ruling party, but it is also without the sort of power that comes from strength in numbers as exercised by Ozawa and Liberal Democratic Party faction leaders of the past. And where diplomacy is concerned, experience is largely what produces sound decisions.

That said, however, time has already expired for the DPJ administration to keep using "lack of practice" as an excuse.

The only way the Kan administration can hope to regain its footing is to implement its policies one by one and let the results speak for themselves.

Instead of trying to do everything at once, the administration must prioritize, focus on each issue, and set itself to forging a consensus.

The worst possible thing the Kan administration could do would be to get flustered by this sudden drop in popularity and make even more blunders.

by kiyoshimat | 2010-11-18 05:15 | 英字新聞

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