--The Asahi Shimbun, July 18(IHT/Asahi: July 20,2009)
EDITORIAL: LDP in danger of splitting

Prime Minister Taro Aso apparently has fended off an attempt by a group of Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers to oust him.

Aso has rejected the anti-Aso group's demand for a joint plenary meeting of LDP Diet members and is poised to dissolve the Lower House on July 21 for a snap election according to his plan.

A wave of criticism against Aso was beginning to emerge within the LDP over the ruling party's historic defeat in the recent Tokyo metropolitan assembly election and the prime minister's move immediately after the election to announce his plan to dissolve the Lower House.

Aso has said he will hold an informal gathering of party members to address these issues immediately before he calls a general election.

In other words, Aso hopes to settle the situation by allowing critics to "let off steam."

But this is unlikely to calm the anti-Aso group led by former LDP Secretary-General Hidenao Nakagawa, which demanded a plenary party meeting after collecting the signatures of more than 130 party members.

Nakagawa's group was hoping to have its proposal to move forward the party presidential election approved at the plenary meeting, the LDP's second-highest decision-making institution after the party convention.

Nakagawa and his allies are considering developing their own election manifesto independently of Aso's LDP. Some of them are even proposing to name their own candidate for prime minister.

That would cause the LDP to split before the election.

If the LDP spends a great deal of energy on an internal power struggle, it remains the party's problem. If the struggle spills over into the Lower House election, however, that would be a different story.

When Japan had multi-seat constituencies, members of the mainstream factions of the LDP and those of nonmainstream factions were sometimes pitted against each other in the same electoral districts.

In those days, the LDP could afford to settle internecine struggles through national elections under the solid one-party rule called the "1955 regime" after the year when the party was founded.

It would be grossly anachronistic and a mistake for the party to readopt this approach in a Lower House election now held under a single-seat constituency system.

The core objective of the political reform in the 1990s was a shift from an electoral system focused on individual candidates to a party-oriented system to make a power transfer possible.

The tax-financed program of state subsidies to political parties is based on the assumption of party-oriented politics.

Under the current system, voters are supposed to vote for the party they want to govern the nation in their respective electoral districts.

Party manifestoes are critical informational material for voters to use to make their electoral choices.

A party's manifesto for a Lower House election is its covenant with the voting public, spelling out policies the party promises to realize if elected to govern during the four-year term.

If more than one manifesto emerges from a party, voters will find it impossible to make a decision regarding that party.

That would betray the public trust because the electorate has supported the current direction of political reform.

Aso is responsibile for ensuring the LDP has a unified election manifesto. He must not allow the party to be split before the election, which would greatly confuse voters.

Aso should bear in mind that simply letting off steam will not settle the situation.

We also urge opposition parties to present their manifestoes to voters as early as possible.

In particular, main opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) should set policy priorities and make clear how it intends to realize its proposals within a timeframe of four years and under tight fiscal constraints.

Minshuto needs to show a clear policy vision that also explains how the party will actually run the government.

by kiyoshimat | 2009-07-21 09:21 | 英字新聞

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