「第3極」 主導権争いが映す政治の混迷

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 8, 2012)
Struggles over '3rd force' reflect political disarray
「第3極」 主導権争いが映す政治の混迷(11月7日付・読売社説)

Political struggles are intensifying over who will become the main actor in an emerging "third force" to challenge the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party.

If the basic ideas and policy stances continue to differ significantly among those expected to form such a force, there will be little prospect of it emerging before the next House of Representatives election.

First of all, we wonder about the real aims of a third force. Former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara has expressed his intention to shortly launch a new party with Takeo Hiranuma, head of the Sunrise Party of Japan, and others, and work to reorganize the political landscape by forming an alliance with Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and other conservative forces.

Toru Hashimoto, the head of Ishin no Kai, is positive about forming an alliance with Ishihara, but wants to keep his distance from the Sunrise Party's "genuine conservatism." This must be hard for the public to understand.


Policy differences

Let's look at the policy issues.

Ishihara and the Sunrise Party have accepted a consumption tax rate hike to secure fiscal resources for social security. Ishin no Kai and Your Party, on the other hand, want to make the consumption tax a local tax.

On energy policy, the Sunrise Party has the realistic approach that nuclear energy should be maintained as long as safety management systems are improved. Ishin no Kai and Your Party both want this country to abandon nuclear power.

Consumption tax and nuclear energy policies are significant in determining Japan's future course. Ishihara has described the policy stance differences as "minor problems" that will not prevent the formation of a viable political force. But we consider it absurd to bend on policy measures favored by the public.

Both of these issues will certainly be hot potatoes in the next lower house election. Voters will be puzzled if parties form an alliance or cooperate in the election by covering up their differences on important policies and call for drastic reforms of state organizations and bureaucracy systems. (この部分の英訳は不完全です^^)

Ichiro Matsui, secretary general of Ishin no Kai, has indicated the party will officially endorse candidates in the lower house No. 1 single-seat constituency of each prefecture, which includes the prefectural capital. The party apparently aims to win seats in those constituencies, where there are many floating voters, and garner as many votes as possible in the proportional representation segment of the election.


Fruitless tug-of-war

This seems to be a promising strategy for Ishin no Kai, which lacks organizational strength, but all parties will want to field candidates in the No. 1 constituencies. It is understandable that Ishin no Kai's unilateral approach has caused consternation among other parties.

The move to forge a third force has been the focus of attention because the DPJ and the LDP have continued a fruitless political tug-of-war that has led the nation's politics to languish in indecisiveness.

In a Yomiuri Shimbun opinion survey conducted earlier this month, respondents who said they support no particular political party rose to 53 percent, up 10 percentage points from the previous survey. Regarding a third force alliance involving Ishihara's new party, Ishin no Kai and others, 52 percent of respondents said they had high expectations for such an alliance.

This is probably because of the popularity of Ishihara and Hashimoto, rather than any other factor.

But the rise of a third force likely means there will be a large number of newly elected lawmakers without experience in national politics. What would this portend for Japan's politics? The public must think about this as well.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 7, 2012)
(2012年11月7日01時20分  読売新聞)

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