November 12, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Editorial: PM should carefully consider points of contention, timing of general election
Speculation is growing within the political world that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will likely dissolve the House of Representatives to call a snap general election by the end of this year. According to speculation, the prime minister will decide later this month to postpone the consumption tax hike from 8 to 10 percent, which is scheduled for October 2015, and ask voters to support his decision through an election.
The ruling coalition has failed to make sufficient efforts to lay the groundwork for the tax increase. Moreover, the ruling bloc appears to be attempting to take advantage of public opinion against the tax hike to win an election. Serious questions remain as to whether a delay in the consumption tax increase should be recognized as a sufficient reason for calling a general election.
Legislators are far from holding in-depth general debate in the Diet. Both ruling and opposition parties have already begun preparing for an election as speculation is spreading from the ruling coalition about the schedule for dissolving the chamber and holding an election.
Despite these moves, Prime Minister Abe has denied intending to dissolve the lower house anytime soon saying that he has "not decided at all" about the timing of an election. Whether to dissolve the chamber is entirely up to the prime minister. There are observations among those within the political world that ruling coalition politicians are deliberately spreading rumors about a possible dissolution in a bid to keep opposition parties in check as the ongoing extraordinary Diet session is nearing an end.
However, if the prime minister were to be seriously considering dissolving the chamber, the reason for that would be called into question. A senior government official pointed out that a delay in the consumption tax hike could be a justifiable reason for calling a general election because such a decision would overturn an agreement on the tax increase between the now ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), its coalition partner Komeito and the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) which is now the largest opposition party. However, is this really so?
The government should go ahead with the consumption tax increase to 10 percent as scheduled after addressing outstanding issues, such as lessening the burden on low income earners and slashing the number of seats in the lower house, which the legislature has failed to act on for a long time. The ruling coalition has not been enthusiastic about working on these issues.
Uncertainty over economic conditions, which some ruling coalition legislators cite as the reason for calling for a delay in the tax hike, is attributable to the failure of "Abenomics," the economic policy mix promoted by the Abe government, to produce sufficient results. If the economic conditions were to be so serious that the tax hike needs to be postponed, the government should scrutinize economic stimulus measures it has so far implemented.
In the campaign for the previous general election, the LDP, Komeito and the DPJ asked voters to accept the tax hike because these main political parties were aware of the need to share the responsibility for increasing the tax burden on the public. These parties attempted to share a common view on tax and social security by putting aside their struggle for power.
If the ruling coalition were to scrap the three-party accord and pledge a postponement of the tax hike in the next lower house race, the efforts the three parties have patiently made to form a consensus among them would come to nothing.
Some within the ruling coalition fear that it will be increasingly difficult to run the government next year when the administration needs to draft security bills as Komeito is wary of expanding the role Japan should play in global security. The economic outlook is also increasingly uncertain. If ruling party politicians were to be calling for a dissolution of the lower chamber because they believe they can rely on the relatively high approval rating for the Abe Cabinet, they should be criticized as being sly.
The DPJ has insisted that the consumption tax hike and expansion of the social security system should be implemented as a package. Concerns remain that voters could be forced to make a choice without clear points of contention or in-depth policy debate if a general election were to be called quickly. Prime Minister Abe should cautiously consider points of contention during a lower house race and select the timing of the election.
毎日新聞 2014年11月12日 02時35分