衆院選政権公約 実現可能な政策へ論議深めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 23, 2012)
Deeper discussions needed for realistic manifestos
衆院選政権公約 実現可能な政策へ論議深めよ(8月22日付・読売社説)


Unless policy pledges are feasible, politics will be unable to make any progress. This is the bitter lesson learned from the failed manifesto of the Democratic Party of Japan.

With the dissolution of the House of Representatives and a general election expected to take place "sometime soon," ruling and opposition parties are gearing up for the election. The major issue is how the DPJ will revise its manifesto, a document cynically called "a synonym for lies" that has disgraced the party.

The main campaign issues in the next lower house election are shaping up to be the consumption tax rate increase, Japan's possible participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, and the nation's nuclear and energy policies.


Specify fiscal resources

Policies quickly cobbled together just before an election tend to become "discount sales" that smack of populism and suck up to voters' interests. We hope each party holds down-to-earth discussions, even during the current Diet session, to come up with realistic policies.

The most glaring fault of the DPJ manifesto for the 2009 lower house election was the party's insistence that--without mentioning a consumption tax rate hike--it could find 16.8 trillion yen in fiscal resources to implement its policy pledges through such measures as overhauling budget allocations. There was never any prospect this could be achieved.

The DPJ must now be painfully aware just how poorly thought-out its manifesto was.

Referring to the manifesto for the next lower house election, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said at a general meeting of DPJ lawmakers of both Diet chambers on Aug. 8, "It's necessary to thoroughly and carefully discuss these issues within the party and make innovative efforts to ensure these discussions are 'visible.'"

Noda's argument sounds reasonable, but it also sounds like words of reflection. It is essential that many lawmakers are involved in the manifesto-compiling process and fight the election with a shared awareness.

There are probably concerns that if party members openly discuss policy matters, they would reveal their cards to other parties. But this process would be a yardstick voters could use when deciding who deserves their ballot.

If the lower house is not dissolved during the current Diet session, both the DPJ and the opposition Liberal Democratic Party should make their presidential elections, both scheduled for September, an opportunity to set the course for their election manifestos.

We also think it necessary to again consider what the point of an election manifesto is. A party that is in opposition may not know well how the system works until it takes power. Unpredictable events may occur, such as major disasters and abrupt changes in economic and international situations.

A party in power should flexibly revise or withdraw its policy pledges if its manifesto obviously becomes unrealistic or difficult to achieve.

Rather, it is preferable to carry out policies that are necessary and serve national interests, even if they run counter to the manifesto. In this instance, reasons for the policy change must be explained to the people.

Needless to say, it is essential for politicians to deliver on their pledges. But it is insincere to insist on adhering to policies that are no longer useful. It benefits nobody to fall into a trap of "manifesto supremacism."


A manifesto is supposed to be part of a cycle: parties try to achieve their stated aims, and voters evaluate the party's level of achievement in the next election. However, the DPJ manifesto has caused fundamental problems in state politics.


Problems in DPJ manifesto

The first problem involves a House of Councillors election.

After acknowledging its visions had been overly optimistic, the DPJ revised part of its 2009 election manifesto when it drew up the party's pledges for the 2010 upper house election. In connection with the consumption tax, the 2010 campaign manifesto stated, "Suprapartisan discussions will be started on drastic reform of the tax system, including the consumption tax."

But afterward, the promises for the 2010 election were put to one side and debate focused on the advisability of sticking to the manifesto for the lower house election.

How can the manifesto for a lower house election be tied to campaign pledges for an upper house election? The DPJ must clarify its stance on this point as well as its handling of the pledges for the upper house election in which it suffered a major setback.

A consumption tax increase was a central point of contention in the DPJ presidential election last summer. Noda was elected after clarifying his position in favor of a consumption tax hike. This also marked a policy change by the party.

Voters cast ballots after not only measuring the extent to which a manifesto has been achieved, but also evaluating whether such a policy change is worthwhile.


Diet will stay divided

Secondly, the next lower house election will inevitably be fought on the premise that the Diet will remain divided.

This is because neither the DPJ nor the LDP holds a majority by itself in the upper house. No matter which party wins the lower house poll, it will need to form a coalition with a party--or parties--with similar policies to form a stable government after the election.

Cooperation from opposition parties will be crucial for achieving policy goals.

It is natural for parties to advocate their policies in lower house elections, but in view of the likelihood of a coalition government and a divided Diet, it is not realistic to give specific promises, such as setting deadlines for implementing policies.

We urge all parties to compile campaign pledges for the next general election without pursuing populist lines so they can take responsibility for Japan's future.

Voters, for their part, must understand fully that there are limits to the implementation of campaign pledges.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 22, 2012)
(2012年8月22日01時51分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-08-24 05:51 | 英字新聞

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