Party presidential candidates must show policy directions
Preparations for the presidential elections of both the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party are gathering pace.
The president of the DPJ will be prime minister, but the president of the LDP may also take up the post, depending on the outcome of the next House of Representatives election, which is to be held "sometime soon."
Each party race must be fought over candidates' views on the nation as a state, their basic policies and their qualifications as a leader. There will be heated debates in which candidates need to take into account not only the positions of their rivals within their own party but also the positions of candidates in the other party.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will seek reelection in the DPJ presidential race, while Environment Minister Goshi Hosono, a member of the Noda Cabinet, has hinted at his intention to run, reversing his earlier stance that he would not. It now seems highly likely that the once almost certain prospect of Noda's reelection will be changed.
The LDP presidential race, meanwhile, appears to be a crowded field with the following figures expected to run: current LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara, former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Shigeru Ishiba, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura and LDP Policy Research Council Acting Chairman Yoshimasa Hayashi.
Attention has been drawn to factions led by Makoto Koga and Machimura, as they may split over the question of whom to run from these factions.
3-party pacts key issue
One focal point in the two parties' elections is whether to maintain agreements reached by the DPJ, LDP and New Komeito over such issues as integrated reform of the social security and tax systems.
Neither the DPJ nor the LDP can change the divided Diet, where the lower house is controlled by the ruling camp and the House of Councillors is held by the opposition, until the next upper house election takes place.
Whether to cooperate to pass pending bills will be a point of contention. There is a growing number of tasks to be addressed, such as legislation to allow the issuance of deficit-covering bonds and to reform the lower house election system to rectify the disparity in the value of one vote.
In the DPJ, intraparty confrontation over differences in policy directions has eased since former party leader Ichiro Ozawa and others left the DPJ. If Noda is reelected, he will have no choice but to seek cooperation from the LDP and Komeito to form a consensus on policy.
Meanwhile, confrontation within the LDP has been increasingly prominent. Although Tanigaki and Ishihara promoted three-party cooperation with the DPJ and Komeito, Abe hopes to join hands with Osaka Ishin no Kai (Osaka restoration group) rather than the DPJ.
Which political forces to cooperate with is a key issue. Other possible candidates also should clarify their stance in this regard.
Both parties must deepen their debates on policy issues to tackle the problems they are facing.
It is an urgent task to set the course for the nation's energy policy, which concerns such issues as restarting idled reactors at nuclear power plants. Whether to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework also will be a major issue.
We want to hear candidates' views on issues related to Japan's sovereignty and territories, as exemplified in the cases of the Senkaku Islands, Takeshima islands and northern territories. We also will pay attention to their views on exercising the right to collective self-defense, which is indispensable to deepening the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Rival candidates to Noda and Tanigaki are emerging because their parties need to survive the next lower house election. It cannot be denied that the major focus in the two parties' elections is on who will become the party's face in the lower house election. But it is putting the cart before the horse if policy positions do not serve as the yardstick.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 7, 2012)