(Mainichi Japan) February 18, 2012
With parties foundering, now may be time for direct election of PMs

The support rate for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has been declining. Recent opinion polls by media organizations all show that his administration's approval rating has plunged to somewhere in the 30 percent neighborhood, while the disapproval rate has climbed to some 50 percent.

"Basically, I should take the results seriously," said Prime Minister Noda during a House of Representatives Budget Committee session when asked about the unpopularity of his Cabinet. However, he also stressed that sometimes the prime minister "has to be ready to convince the public even when faced with harsh opinions at a particular moment."

Noda is absolutely determined to raise the consumption tax -- something which most opinion poll respondents oppose. On the other hand, with Japan facing an increasingly greying society, members of the public are becoming more aware that it would be impossible to maintain the current social security system without a consumption tax hike. Noda is apparently encouraged by this growing recognition.

Nevertheless, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has seen its party approval rate fall, while the largest opposition Liberal Democratic Party's support rate remains stuck in neutral. As a result, the number of independents has jumped from somewhere around 50 percent to nearly 70 percent, according to one survey.

This demographic is the target of the host of newly emerging parties across the nation.

One of them, "Osaka Ishin no Kai" (Osaka Restoration Association), a regional party led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, has drawn up a manifesto called "Senchu Hassaku" -- the same title given to policy proposals thought to have been drafted by the late-Edo era revolutionary hero Sakamoto Ryoma.

Prime Minister Noda hailed the local party's policy pledges, saying, "It's good to raise questions about the way this country should be from various perspectives." Mayor Hashimoto was apparently flattered by the remarks, responding, "I'm glad the prime minister commented on what one local political group has been doing."

The Hashimoto-version of "Senchu Hassaku" (literally, eight proposals made aboard ship) advocates direct election of the prime minister. Such a system has often been proposed in times of political chaos. In a recent opinion poll, over 70 percent of respondents favored the direct election of prime ministers.

Former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who has been advocating direct election of prime ministers for some 50 years under the slogan, "Let's be able to choose our lovers and our prime ministers," underscores the advantages of the system.

"What is appropriate for Japan as a communal nation is a system to elect the people by the people.

If we set the (prime minister's) term at four years, with a maximum of two terms, the country's executive power would be stable.

It is irrational that while people can directly elect the heads of their local governments, they can't do the same with the prime minister.

Based on past experience, the Japanese people should have enough self-esteem to know they have the right to elect their own prime minister.

Once elected, the person would be appointed as prime minister by the Emperor," Nakasone said.

(By Takakazu Matsuda, Expert Senior Writer, Age 66)
毎日新聞 2012年2月18日 東京朝刊

0 件のコメント: