LDP must quickly recover from 'opposition slumber'
What will the Liberal Democratic Party aim to do if it recaptures power, and how will it achieve these objectives?
We urge the candidates in the party's presidential election to explain their views and policy stances, given that they aspire to grab the reins of this nation.
LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara has announced he will run in the party race. Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura and former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Shigeru Ishiba have already declared their candidacies. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and LDP Policy Research Council Acting Chairman Yoshimasa Hayashi also expressed their intention to throw their hats in the ring.
The LDP race will choose who might become the prime minister, depending on the outcome of the next House of Representatives election. It is only natural that the race is heating up.
However, we consider it problematic that LDP members are preoccupied with jockeying for position among party factions and figuring out how many party lawmakers support each candidate.
Current LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki piled so much pressure on the two previous prime ministers of the Democratic Party of Japan--Yukio Hatoyama and Naoto Kan--that they stepped down. The LDP won the previous House of Councillors election, a result that created a divided Diet in which the opposition controls the upper house.
Tanigaki frozen out
It was commendable that Tanigaki, as leader of the largest opposition party, joined hands with the DPJ to pass bills on integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, the main pillar of which is a consumption tax rate increase.
In the latest Yomiuri Shimbun opinion survey, 21 percent of respondents--the biggest proportion--said they planned to vote for the LDP in the proportional representation segment of the next lower house election.
Nevertheless, Tanigaki was considered to be lacking something as the party's face for the coming election, and thus decided he had no option but to stay out of the party race. He must feel desperately disappointed to have come this close to guiding the party to its long-sought goal of returning to power.
Tanigaki's fall was in part due to his failure to hammer out policies representative of the LDP, other than the integrated reform. He was unable to attract wide support.
Tanigaki became increasingly isolated when senior LDP figures such as former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Makoto Koga, who heads a party faction, turned their back on him over his handling of party affairs.
Tanigaki led the LDP to support a recent censure motion submitted by several opposition parties against Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda--a motion that also criticized the LDP for approving the consumption tax rate increase. The party was accused of "self-condemnation."
The LDP's policy goals and vision for after it returns to power will be scrutinized afresh during the presidential race. Party members should be well aware that revival of the party, which Tanigaki aimed for, has only been half completed.
Take stand on nuclear power
Ishihara said his "mission is to realize policy measures and courses" the party promoted under Tanigaki's leadership. It would be disconcerting if the party, after a change in leadership, forgets about implementing the integrated reform in line with the accord it reached with the DPJ and New Komeito.
The LDP for many years steered an administration that was pro-nuclear energy. Is it right for the party to stand idly by while the DPJ has set out a "zero nuclear power" policy direction? We urge the LDP to propose realistic energy policies.
The LDP is irresponsible for opposing the nation's possible participation in negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework if abolishing tariffs "without sanctuary" is a precondition. The party should also debate the matter from the viewpoint of a growth strategy through expanded free trade.
Rebuilding diplomatic relations with China, South Korea and Russia, and the deployment of the U.S. Marine Corps' new Osprey transport aircraft also are pressing issues that need to be addressed.
Considering these issues after it takes power will be too late. During the LDP election, the party urgently needs to awaken from its "opposition slumber" in which it devoted itself only to lobbing criticism around and failed to make its own decisions.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 12, 2012)