Ruling and opposition parties should meet halfway
By speeding up efforts to settle key issues, both ruling and opposition parties should create an environment conducive to a decision by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to dissolve the House of Representatives within the year.
Noda is currently mulling dissolution of the lower house for a general election. As some members of his Democratic Party of Japan are considering leaving the party, the prime minister is well aware of the risk that the DPJ may no longer retain a lower house majority. Given the situation, Noda apparently is looking for ways to gain the upper hand in dissolving the lower house rather than being forced to dissolve it.
It has been about three years and two months since the last lower house election. It is about time to seek a public mandate.
The prime minister was apparently prompted to consider dissolution by a change in the stance of the largest opposition Liberal Democratic Party. LDP President Shinzo Abe recently said his party is ready to cooperate on passing a bill to issue deficit-covering bonds and resolving other key issues even though Noda has not set a definite date for the dissolution.
The bill is expected to be passed in the lower house Thursday and be enacted by the end of this month.
LDP, Komeito cooperation
The LDP has concluded that holding the matter closely linked to the people's daily lives "hostage" is not the proper thing to do. We view this as reasonable.
Under the divided Diet in which the House of Councillors is controlled by the opposition camp, the opposition's act of urging Noda to specify the timing of the dissolution in return for its cooperation in passing important legislation could restrict the prime minister's constitutional prerogative to dissolve the lower house.
If such maneuvers were to be repeated, no administration would last long, and politics would be thrown into chaos. We believe Abe's compromise would be to the advantage of the LDP, which is seeking a return to power.
The smaller opposition party New Komeito has also fallen in line with the LDP without calling on Noda for a definite time for the lower house dissolution. Although they have not fully come to terms, it is significant that the three major parties are back on the same page for now.
The three parties have also agreed to have party leaders debate in the Diet as well as convene a meeting of the lower house's budget committee next week. We hope they will have serious debates over the Senkaku Islands issue and Japan's participation in negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership multinational free trade framework. Noda supports TPP participation.
It's time for DPJ to shift stance
Meanwhile, the DPJ has maintained a firm attitude on lower house electoral system reform--one of the conditions set by Noda to dissolve the lower house--by continuing to handle the two issues of reducing single-seat constituencies by five and cutting the number of seats in the proportional representation system together. However, the DPJ is unlikely to win cooperation from the opposition with such a stance, and this would leave the passage of the key legislation up in the air.
To prevent a lower house election from being held "in a state of unconstitutionality," it is essential for the DPJ to accept the LDP's proposal of handling the issues separately and reducing single-seat constituencies first. The DPJ executive led by Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi should be aware a position shift is necessary.
The opposition camp in the upper house, meanwhile, remains combative with the Noda administration, citing the censure motion against Noda passed in the previous Diet session as the reason.
The three parties have also broadly agreed on the passage of a bill in the lower house to revise the National Pension Law to set pension payments at levels reflecting the current decline in prices. They should also work together in approving necessary legislation in the upper house.
Upper house DPJ members have called on the opposition parties to allow the prime minister to deliver his policy speech in the chamber's plenary session as the opposition blocked Noda from doing so. But the DPJ should refrain from unnecessarily provoking them.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 10, 2012)