消費増税反対派 マニフェストの呪縛を解け

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 19, 2012)
Consumption tax opponents must get over their manifesto fixation
消費増税反対派 マニフェストの呪縛を解け(6月18日付・読売社説)

In the run-up to the Diet vote on bills for comprehensive reform of the social security and taxation systems, centering on the consumption tax hike, confrontations are escalating within the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.

At this stage, those who are against raising the consumption tax rate persist in arguing that other things must be done first, a stance we find deplorable. They may be breaking ranks against the plan to protect themselves in the next House of Representatives election. It is time for DPJ members to break the spell of their manifesto for the 2009 lower house election, which is the source of internal conflicts.

Former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa criticizes Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's policy of raising the consumption tax rate, calling it a suicidal act, a blasphemy against the people and a breach of public trust. He is calling on DPJ members to hew to the party's manifesto pledges.

Ozawa and other opponents of raising the consumption tax view the manifesto as a "contract with the people." This is why party discussions over the manifesto end up in unproductive arguments over whether the party will stick to it or discard it. However, the manifesto is simply a set of principles and plans from the time when it was drawn up.


Realism, flexibility called for

It is natural for politicians to appropriately and flexibly modify policies in accordance with changes in political and economic circumstances at home and abroad.

The 2009 manifesto was drawn up at the initiative of Ozawa and others when the DPJ still was in the opposition bloc. But with the feasibility of many manifesto policies having been called into question, it has effectively broken down.

The manifesto certainly did not touch on the consumption tax.

However, the party's manifesto for the House of Councillors election in 2010 clearly called for the launch of suprapartisan negotiations over comprehensive tax system reform, including the consumption tax.

Noda won the DPJ presidential election in August last year, pointing to the need to raise the consumption tax. It is not persuasive at all if opponents continue to insist on the 2009 manifesto, completely neglecting such processes.

Regarding the 2009 lower house election, DPJ Vice President Katsuya Okada said in the Diet: "We won the election in the grand flow of people's wishes for a change in power, rather than as a result of the manifesto." We think he is quite right on this point.

In a Yomiuri Shimbun opinion poll taken right after the lower house election, nearly 50 percent of respondents said the DPJ won the election because of voter frustration toward then Prime Minister Taro Aso and the Liberal Democratic Party. Only about 10 percent cited people's appreciation of the DPJ manifesto as the reason for its victory.


There's no manifesto referendum

Japanese voters have yet to embrace a system in which they simply pass judgment on a ruling party's ability to realize its lower house manifesto pledges during the four-year term of its lower house members. Moreover, isn't the DPJ manifesto for the 2010 upper house election, in which the party was defeated, still in effect? The party remains unable to sort out even this point.

Furthermore, as the DPJ's defeat in the upper house election resulted in a divided Diet, in which the upper house is controlled by opposition parties, the party is unable to pass bills through the Diet without cooperation from opposition parties.

Some of the DPJ's plans, such as creating a new pension system with a minimum guaranteed pension program and abolishing the special health insurance program for those aged 75 and older, are opposed by the LDP and New Komeito. In the divided Diet, how will it be possible for the party to realize such plans?

It is irresponsible for the party to give the manifesto absolute priority, without taking into account changes in the political environment. The DPJ must reconsider the manifesto from its foundation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 18, 2012)
(2012年6月18日01時17分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-06-20 06:42 | 英字新聞

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