8月30日総選挙 問われる政策と政権担当能力

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jul. 14, 2009)
Policies, ability to hold power being tested
8月30日総選挙 問われる政策と政権担当能力(7月14日付・読売社説)

Prime Minister Taro Aso and senior officials of the ruling coalition parties agreed Monday to dissolve the House of Representatives next Tuesday at the earliest and hold a general election on Aug. 30.

Aso was looking at a dissolution of the lower house immediately after the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election on Sunday. Facing intensifying pressure to step down from the leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party following the party's crushing defeat in the Tokyo assembly election, Aso apparently compromised with many members of the ruling parties who wanted the general election to be postponed.

Aso's decision on the scheduling of the lower house dissolution and general election also was affected by opposition efforts, especially those of the Democratic Party of Japan, to submit a no-confidence motion against his Cabinet and a censure motion against the prime minister to the Diet on Monday.


Seizing last chance

Aso has been constantly seeking the right moment to dissolve the lower house since he became prime minister in September amid high expectations for him to serve as the LDP's front man in the next general election.

Suffering the repercussions of the financial crisis originating in the United States, however, Aso passed up two opportunities to dissolve the lower house--at the opening of the extraordinary Diet session in autumn and late in October.

Aso stressed that he was prioritizing economic stimulus measures over the dissolution of the lower house, but he eventually failed to take the initiative in dissolving the lower house. He has managed to call the general election before terms of lower house members expire and grabbed this last chance for him to dissolve the lower house on a date of his own choosing.

Finally, the general election countdown is underway.

Since last year, the recession has been spreading globally and the Japanese economy has been languishing.

North Korea has carried out development and tests of nuclear missiles and has been ignoring international warnings.

Despite growing public anxiety over the public pension, health care and nursing care systems amid the graying population and ultralow birthrate, an assured blueprint and stable resources to fund them have yet to be presented.

We hope each party will actively discuss the matter as soon as possible, without waiting for the official election campaign to kick off on Aug. 18, finalize their clear vision of this country and systematic policies, and present them to voters.

While Aso decided to dissolve the lower house, he still has his back to the wall.

Aso attempted to use Sunday's Tokyo assembly election to pull himself out a political quagmire, but the LDP suffered a resounding defeat and allowed the DPJ to become the largest party in the assembly.

According to a Yomiuri Shimbun opinion poll conducted early this month, the approval rating for the Aso Cabinet fell to 19.7 percent, dropping below 20 percent for the first time.

We have rarely seen a prime minister dare to dissolve the lower house with such a low cabinet approval rating. Even the approval rating of the LDP itself, which has long maintained the position of largest party in the Diet, was floundering at the 20-percent mark in the same opinion poll--below that of the DPJ.

With approval ratings for both the Cabinet and party languishing at low levels, the upcoming lower house election is sure to become a battle in which the two major parties directly ask voters which one they think more suited to running the nation.


Clarify points through debate

However, the problem is that both parties are behind in their preparation of actual policies with which they can appeal to voters during the election campaign.

Aso is sticking to a strategy of fighting off the DPJ by making clear the policy differences between the parties and questioning the DPJ's ability to govern.

A prime example is the policy of raising the consumption tax, a way to gain a financial source for social welfare programs. Aso has maintained that the consumption tax rate should be raised in the future provided the economy improves.

Countering Aso, DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama has made clear the DPJ's position that it will not raise the consumption tax rate for four years if it takes the reins of government.

We hope both parties will further deepen their debate over the raising of the consumption tax rate.

At the same time, the DPJ opposed the laws enacted to enable the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling operation in the Indian Ocean and antipiracy mission off the coast of Somalia.

The DPJ and other opposition parties, which submitted a no-confidence motion against the Aso Cabinet and a censure motion against Aso, said they would not participate in Diet deliberations on important bills. This move now makes it difficult for the bill for implementing North Korea-related cargo inspections to pass the current Diet, many analysts said.

If the DPJ scraps a bill based on a U.N. Security Council resolution, the party would inevitably be criticized both at home and abroad for "abandoning its responsibilities" as a political party.

People are still concerned about whether the DPJ can smoothly steer the nation in both domestic and diplomatic policies without falling into disarray if the party takes power. The pressing issue for the DPJ is to wipe such worries from voters' minds.


Possibility of political reshuffle

The LDP has had three different prime ministers in the four years since Junichiro Koizumi--Shinzo Abe, Yasuo Fukuda and Aso.

Some observers have pointed out that such a frequent change of leaders is proof that the LDP's ability to govern the nation has weakened after having held the reins of government for such a long time.

The LDP has various structural problems such as a deterioration in its factions' ability to professionally nurture their members, a decrease in the ability of the party to formulate policy and a lack of persuasive appeal among the party's leaders.

We believe the LDP must take this opportunity to dramatically reform itself.

The Diet has been divided since the DPJ became the largest force in the House of Councillors after the 2007 upper house election. Since then the dysfunctional handling of Diet business has been repeatedly pointed out.

We wonder whether the the upcoming general election will resolve this situation. The outcome of the election will be closely watched, including any moves toward a political realignment after the election.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 14, 2009)
(2009年7月14日01時46分 読売新聞)

srachai's comment,

by kiyoshimat | 2009-07-14 09:16 | 英字新聞

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