衆院選公示 確かな日本の針路見据えたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 6, 2012)
Voters--pick the party that offers solid course for Japan
衆院選公示 確かな日本の針路見据えたい(12月5日付・読売社説)


Can Japan maintain its national strength, or will it stray down a course of decline? In the upcoming House of Representatives election, voters will make an extremely important choice that will decide the future course of Japan.

Official campaigning has started for the 46th lower house election. It is an unusual election in that it is being contested by 12 political parties, including the two major ones--the Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party.

In his first stump speech, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the question in this election is "whether we move forward or return to old politics." He stressed that his party aims to become the largest party in the lower house. LDP President Shinzo Abe, meanwhile, said, "Together with New Komeito, the LDP will definitely win a majority and take back power." All eyes are on whether the DPJ or the LDP will end up holding the tiller of government.


3rd force may affect new govt

If Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan) and Your Party, which aim to become a third major force to rival the DPJ and the LDP, grow stronger, they could affect the framework of the new administration.

While Abe scotched suggestions his party might form a coalition government with the DPJ, he said cooperation with Ishin no Kai remains an option.

Even if the LDP becomes the largest party in the lower chamber, it still does not have a majority in the House of Councillors--even with the help of Komeito and Ishin no Kai. Consequently, the Diet likely will remain divided until the upper house election in summer next year.

With elections being what they are, it is natural for political parties to compete with each other. However, they will also need to maneuver with one eye on the possibility of forming a coalition or partial alliance after the election. Parties are being tested on how they will break away from "politics characterized by indecision."

Cooperation between the DPJ, the LDP and Komeito is indispensable for steadily carrying out integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, the main pillar of which is to raise the consumption tax rate.

The consumption tax increase is necessary for rebuilding state finances, which are teetering on the brink, and maintaining the social security system. It was only recently that the national council for revamping the social security system was launched under the initiative of the three parties. The council's discussions must be accelerated further.

Fearing for their political survival, many former lower house members who bolted from the DPJ joined new parties and oppose the tax increase. If they insist on taking this stance, they should present realistic steps for securing the resources needed to fund social security and reconstructing public finances.

Simply insisting they will "cut waste in administration" is too simplistic.


Zero nuclear option irresponsible

Parties are also at odds over policies on nuclear power and energy.

Although the DPJ and the LDP will both allow nuclear reactors to be reactivated after confirmation they are safe to operate, the LDP said it will not form a conclusion on the future of nuclear power plants right away.


The DPJ, on the other hand, aims to end the nation's reliance on nuclear power generation in the 2030s. Mirai no To calls for abolishing nuclear generation in 10 years, while Your Party says it will end nuclear reliance in the 2020s. The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party champion ending nuclear generation immediately.

It is irresponsible to call for ending the use of nuclear power. Parties that trumpet this stance must explain in detail how they would ensure a stable power supply and deal with the inevitable negative impacts on the economy, employment and household spending, and the drain of Japan's nuclear engineers. Without doing so, their arguments will not be compelling to voters.

Taking the "zero nuclear" option will erode Japan's strength, and clearly make it more difficult to provide full social security programs and guarantee national security.

The most important task right now is economic revitalization. Conquering deflation and the ultra-strong yen will be essential for achieving an economic recovery.

The LDP has laid out an inflation target of 2 percent, and plans to implement bold monetary easing to achieve this goal. We applaud this policy.

Many parties, including the DPJ and the LDP, list economic growth as one of their campaign pledges. But they have failed to present a clear vision for achieving it.

It is important that voters scrutinize the parties' campaign platforms to find out which party offers effective economic stimulus and monetary policies.

The diplomatic and security environments surrounding Japan have been going through dramatic changes.

The DPJ-led administration's ham-fisted handling of the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station badly strained the Japan-U.S. alliance. Chinese marine surveillance ships have regularly intruded into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, and North Korea announced it is preparing to test-launch a ballistic missile.

The DPJ, the LDP and Ishin no Kai have quite rightly called for bolstering and deepening the Japan-U.S. alliance. Improving relations with Washington will be necessary also as a check against China, which has been expanding its military and economic presence. Allowing Japan to exercise its right to collective self-defense could be an effective tool for that purpose.


Discuss constitutional revision

Political parties also have a responsibility to deepen discussions about revising the Constitution to present a new vision for Japan.

Voters, for their part, must be careful not to be swayed by populist slogans and sentiments. The parties' pledges include hardly any calls for increasing public burdens, except for the consumption tax increase. Why? The nation cannot just keep kicking the fiscal deficit can down the road for the next generation to deal with.

In the previous 2009 lower house election, many voters got swept up by the climate of "letting the DPJ lead the nation for once." Will similar expectations be held this time for parties striving to become a third political force?

We hope voters will listen closely to what candidates say during the campaign to determine which party offers prescriptions that can address the tough challenges the country faces.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 5, 2012)
(2012年12月5日01時28分  読売新聞)

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