The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 16, 2012)
Voters should study policies and vote to change politics
Sunday's House of Representatives election is important in setting the nation's course. We want to prepare for the vote by scrutinizing each political party's platform.
In this election, 12 parties are fighting a close, heated battle. In contrast, voters appear to be less enthusiastic.
According to a nationwide survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun after the official election campaign kicked off, 82 percent of respondents said they were interested in the forthcoming lower house election, down 10 percentage points from a similar poll conducted ahead of the previous 2009 election.
The number of early votes cast so far for Sunday's election was also reportedly lower than that for the previous election.
This is attributable to growing public distrust of politics due to the current political disarray.
New parties, formed to challenge established parties, largely serve as mutual-aid entities designed only to help defectors from the Democratic Party of Japan and lower-profile candidates win seats in the election. Apparently drawn up hastily, their proposed measures hardly address issues that people are dissatisfied about.
In a basic step to change politics, voters must look closely into each party's policies and then exercise their voting right.
Low turnout of young voters
Meanwhile, it is a matter of concern that the voting rate for people in their 20s is always significantly lower compared with other age brackets.
However, we want young people, in particular, to become more interested in politics as they will be forced to shoulder various burdens as a result of the nation's financial difficulties and expanding economic disparity among people.
Parties tend to put measures to support child care on the back burner as they focus on the pension system and health care for the elderly in their social security policies. Some observers say such a tendency reflects the parties' focus on middle-aged and elderly people with higher voting rates.
The nation's economy has worsened. If the parties make wrong policy choices now, job scarcity for university students and other young people could become serious again.
Concerned over the higher youth jobless rate, the parties have proposed employment measures such as making part-time workers known as freeters regular employees and providing young people with assistance to develop job skills. Some parties have pushed for steps friendly to young people and families with small children in their campaign pledges.
Use of Net remains an issue
Voters are being urged to assess what party has proposed realistic measures that are unlikely to pass excessive burdens onto future generations.
To boost the turnout of young voters, the expanded use of the Internet for elections would be effective.
However, even updating the website of a party after the start of an official campaign could violate the Public Offices Election Law if the act is deemed part of election campaign activities.
With the number of Net users nearing 100 million and Japanese expatriates casting their ballots from overseas, such a regulation is unreasonable. It is no wonder that many parties have criticized the outdated law during the latest election campaign.
We hope the parties will work on establishing rules on the use of the Internet for elections before next summer's House of Councillors election.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 15, 2012)