DPJ's policymaking process far too immature
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan idles away its time as its executives try in vain to persuade its members to support certain policies. But its discussions are very difficult to control as everyone seems to have a different opinion. How many times have we seen this happening?
The DPJ's internal procedures for approving the drafts of the revised bills on integrated reform of the social security and tax systems saw many twists and turns up until the last minute, despite agreement between the ruling and the two main opposition parties--the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.
When the DPJ held a joint meeting of subcommittees of the Policy Research Committee on Wednesday, some members opposed to or cautious over increasing the consumption tax rate argued it would be difficult for them to win an election if the party changed its policy of creating a minimum guaranteed pension system as this was a fundamental part of its manifesto for the 2009 House of Representatives election.
Others said the DPJ has made too many concessions to the LDP on social security issues.
As Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has staked his political life on passage of the comprehensive reform, it is unreasonable for DPJ members to work against the person they chose to be party president. It is no exaggeration to say that they maintained this kind of attitude when the DPJ was an opposition party.
The DPJ should be aware its ability to remain in power is being tested, so it should approve the drafts of the revised bills as soon as possible.
Unstable process causes confusion
The fundamental problem lies in the DPJ's internal culture in which it holds never-ending discussions and avoids making decisions.
In September, Noda's Cabinet confirmed the DPJ's internal procedures for approving bills-- subcommittees of the Policy Research Committee review them first before they are approved by the committee's executive members. When it comes to important bills, a council of top government officials and DPJ executives give the final stamp of approval following a review by the committee.
The DPJ has changed its policymaking process every time it elects a new president. The administration of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama scrapped the Policy Research Committee, which was then revived by his successor, Naoto Kan. Noda's Cabinet has strengthened the committee's authority.
This means the DPJ has failed to establish a stable policymaking process, causing internal discussions to stray off course.
The LDP and Komeito, on the other hand, left discussions on revising bills on the integrated reform up to their respective executives before the three parties started talks. Both parties also have completed internal procedures to approve drafts of the revised bills.
The two parties have built up a mature decision-making process through their years in power, so these steps are a matter of course. Even though opinions differed, they manage to complete their discussions without causing problems.
Responsibility as a ruling party
In contrast, the DPJ's discussions on important issues involve all of its Diet members--even first-term lawmakers.
DPJ members may feel they are having vigorous and open arguments, but their discussions are poor in substance.
Under the divided Diet, it is odd if DPJ lawmakers believe all of the ruling party's opinions should score points. Instead, the party has a responsibility to move the nation's politics forward by considering arguments from opposition parties. It also should have enough will and capacity to fulfill its responsibility.
Even some of DPJ's prefectural chapters have criticized the group led by former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa, which opposes the consumption tax hike even though the party has painstakingly gone through internal procedures on the issue.
The DPJ should be aware that a ruling party has to make concise--and prompt--political decisions.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 20, 2012)