Politics cannot function on confrontation alone
Politics will continue to malfunction under the current divided Diet, in which the House of Councillors is controlled by the opposition bloc, if the ruling and opposition sides remain at loggerheads unnecessarily.
Both need to work in a constructive manner, cooperating on certain points when necessary.
Interpellations began Tuesday in the Diet for party representatives to grill Prime Minister Naoto Kan on the policy speech he delivered Monday, the first day of the current regular Diet session.
Sadakazu Tanigaki, president of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, harshly criticized the Democratic Party of Japan over its pledges for the House of Representatives election in 2009, saying the DPJ had committed "the biggest deliberate violation of a campaign platform in the history of constitutional politics."
Tanigaki made his confrontational attitude toward the Kan administration clear, demanding an early dissolution of the House of Representatives for a snap general election.
"[The government and the ruling party] must admit the mistakes in the election pledges, apologize to voters and seek a voter mandate," Tanigaki said in the Diet.
Kan riposted, insisting that many election pledges have been implemented or the process to realize them begun, and rejected early dissolution of the lower house.
However, the prime minister also said he plans to "examine" the election pledges by September and that in the event he revised the pledges, he would carefully explain to the public to obtain their understanding.
Election promises kaput
We consider the prime minister's perception to be too rosy. In its election pledges, the DPJ claimed it would be possible to squeeze out 16.8 trillion yen in fiscal resources by reorganizing allocations in the more than 200 trillion yen state budget. However, it is already apparent that the election pledges have fallen apart.
If the prime minister still obstinately insists that he will "examine" the pledges, he is simply procrastinating.
Given that the government will compile plans for comprehensive tax reform, including a consumption tax hike, in June, it would be reasonable for the government to comprehensively review election pledges in parallel with the tax system. We urge the government to make a fresh start, frankly admitting its past mistakes and offering apologies to the public.
Tanigaki grilled the prime minister about the appointment of Kaoru Yosano as state minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy in a recent Cabinet reshuffle, asking whether there are conflicting opinions within the Cabinet.
Kan dodged the question. "It won't be possible for the Cabinet to be in disagreement by the time the reform plan is compiled in June," he said.
As Tanigaki pointed out, however, Yosano supports a consumption tax hike and is hardly in step with DPJ members. As Kan is the one who appointed Yosano to the Cabinet, he must expedite efforts to unify opinions within the government as a step toward the goal of incorporating a consumption tax hike in the tax reform plans.
LDP must make an effort
Kan renewed his call to Tanigaki to hold cross-party talks to realize unified reform of social security and tax systems. However, Tanigaki effectively rejected the proposal, setting dissolution of the lower house as a precondition.
Tanigaki apparently concluded that if the LDP agrees to hold negotiations with the ruling bloc and compile reform plans together, it would only benefit the Kan administration. But the LDP will not be able to fulfill its role as a responsible party if it refuses to budge.
Even if the LDP wins the next lower house election and retakes the reins of government, it will still face difficulties in steering the upper house. Given the current seat composition in the upper house, the LDP will be a minority ruling party there even if it forms a coalition with New Komeito, meaning it will have to deal with the divided Diet.
To avoid such an unproductive development, it will be necessary to establish the practice of ruling and opposition parties cooperating with each other to a certain degree on key policy issues.
As an initial step to establishing such a framework, it will be essential for the Kan administration to make bold concessions. We advise the LDP, for its part, not to act solely for its own party interests.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 27, 2011)