(Aug. 21, 2010)
DPJ should debate policy, shun politicking
With less than two weeks until campaigning for the Democratic Party of Japan's presidential election gets underway on Sept. 1, each DPJ group has been engaged in an increasing amount of intraparty wheeling and dealing.
On Thursday, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama held a seminar for members of his group. The meeting was attended by former DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, who heads the ruling party's largest segment.
Ozawa is reportedly considering running in the presidential race, provided he can receive support from a wide range of DPJ members, including those of the Hatoyama group. This has given rise to speculation that Ozawa's attendance at the Thursday meeting may have been part of his preparations for the election.
The seminar, which attracted about 150 DPJ lawmakers, served to display Hatoyama's continuing influence within the party. After stepping down as prime minister in early June, Hatoyama at one time expressed his intention to retire from politics.
Hatoyama's move could be seen as an attempt to regain his lost political privileges, by taking advantage of the obvious advances being made toward him by both Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Ozawa. Kan is apparently trying to woo Hatoyama to his side, in the hope of ensuring his reelection as DPJ chief and consequently prime minister. Ozawa is behaving in a similar fashion as he explores the possibility of running in the Sept. 14 election.
DPJ chiefs must fulfill duties
During Thursday's seminar, Hatoyama reiterated his assertion that the DPJ must be firmly united in running the country as the ruling party. He has said he will support Kan's bid to win reelection as DPJ leader if all the party's groups close ranks with each other.
However, we believe both Ozawa and Hatoyama must look squarely at their respective must-do lists, instead of engaging in calculated activities tied to their party's election.
Hatoyama bears a heavy responsibility for the rift created in the Japan-U.S. relationship as a result of the turmoil that arose from his inconsistent approach to the dispute over the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture. Both Hatoyama and Ozawa have yet to fulfill their duty to fully explain about their connections with politics-and-money scandals.
How do Hatoyama and Ozawa appear to the public in these circumstances? These DPJ heavyweights are obviously resorting to an alliance as a political expedient, instead of reflecting on the scandals that erupted when the former was head of the DPJ and the latter was the party's secretary general.
Ozawa deserves particular reproach as a Tokyo inquest of prosecution panel continues to reconsider the pros and cons of prosecutors' earlier decision not to indict him over the politics-and-money scandal. If Ozawa enters the DPJ election, he should explain what he will do to settle the dispute over the scandal politically, morally and otherwise.
Use election opportunity
Meanwhile, Kan's attitude is no less problematic.
During a press conference in late July, he said the list of pledges he would prepare for the DPJ race would not include a rise in the consumption tax rate. Is it acceptable for Kan to use his party's setback in the last House of Councillors election as a reason for retracting his promise to restore fiscal health?
We believe the prime minister should more actively use the DPJ race as an opportunity to deepen intraparty discussions about the controversy over the consumption tax rate.
Another important issue to be taken up in campaigning for the race is how to treat the DPJ manifesto for last year's House of Representatives election.
It is easy to see the DPJ-led government will be unable to continue such lavish handouts as child-rearing allowances and toll-free services on expressways, when one considers the need to raise a massive amount of funds for such measures.
The DPJ government cannot avoid fundamentally reconsidering the electoral manifesto, given its year-end budget compilation.
Last year's change in administration means the DPJ race is comparable to the Liberal Democratic Party's earlier presidential elections in that the winner will, in effect, gain a passport to the premiership.
The DPJ should take this to heart. The upcoming presidential race must provide its candidates with an opportunity to compete to discuss what shape our country should take and present policies that would affect people's lives.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 20, 2010)