Prime minister should compromise on dissolution
The three major political parties--the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito--finally held a summit meeting Friday, but it quickly broke down. The three parties should seriously try to find common ground to resolve a mountain of issues.
During the meeting with LDP President Shinzo Abe and New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda asked them for their cooperation to tackle key issues such as the passage of a bill allowing the government to issue deficit-covering bonds.
However, Noda was coy about the timing of a dissolution of the House of Representatives for a general election, saying only, "It's a grave matter" that must be considered. During three-party talks in August, Noda said the dissolution of the lower house would be carried out "sometime soon." The opposition party leaders urged him to specify the timing Friday as a condition for their cooperation, but he did not do so.
Discuss issues in Diet
It is understandable that Abe and Yamaguchi argued Noda's "sometime soon" statement concerning dissolution of the lower house is a pledge to the people.
The opposition party leaders said they would not cooperate in passing the legislation without a definite pledge to dissolve the lower house and would boycott Diet deliberations after submitting to the House of Councillors a censure motion against Noda. This stance is unlikely to win public support for their parties.
An extraordinary Diet session is expected to start on Oct. 29. We think the opposition parties should grill the government about problems, such as what appears to be misuse of the budget for disaster reconstruction, through Diet discussions.
Meanwhile, we view the maneuvers currently taken by the Noda side as more problematic. More than three weeks have been wasted between the time Noda met with the then LDP leader and the three-party talks Friday. This apparently resulted from Noda's stance of placing priority on delaying a decision on a general election to buy time.
His instruction to his Cabinet members to draw up a new economic stimulus package by the end of November is also a tepid move. This is no doubt part of his strategy to put off the dissolution of the lower house.
If he wants to effectively stave off an economic slowdown, the prime minister should ensure the extraordinary Diet session is long enough to formulate and then pass a more substantial supplementary budget, instead of tapping budget reserves.
Noda's 3 proposals
During the meeting Friday, Noda proposed the opposition leaders work together with him on three issues to pave the way for the lower house dissolution: drawing up rules for handling a draft budget and a deficit bond bill together; correcting the wide disparity in the value of votes in lower house elections; and setting up a national council for debate on social security system reforms.
The idea of making rules on the deficit bond bill is praiseworthy as it seems to be a constructive proposal that could avert blocking the issuance of deficit-covering bonds in the divided Diet.
As for the vote disparity, Noda only proposed that the issue, which includes reducing the number of lawmakers, be discussed again by party secretaries general. Can such discussions lead to an agreement between the DPJ and the opposition parties?
The ruling party should give the nod to the proposal by the LDP and other opposition parties to reduce five single-seat constituencies of the lower house as a first step for electoral reforms.
After Friday's talks, Abe expressed his disappointment with Noda for his failure to present a new proposal on the timing for the lower house dissolution. Noda will not be able to break the current deadlock if he remains defensive.
The government and ruling party cannot fulfill their responsibility as long as they regard pushing back the dissolution as the best answer.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 20, 2012)