CO2削減目標 25%のハードルは高過ぎる

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 9, 2009)
DPJ's goal of 25% cut in emissions too ambitious
CO2削減目標 25%のハードルは高過ぎる(9月9日付・読売社説)

How will the nation's new government build a fair framework to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, making use of lessons learned from the Kyoto Protocol? The new administration's ability to handle this matter will come under close scrutiny.

Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama said in a speech Monday that the nation's midterm target would be to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. Hatoyama said he would announce the plan at the climate change summit at the United Nations later this month.

With a view to the post-Kyoto Protocol agreement for which the negotiation deadline is the end of this year, Hatoyama urged other major countries to agree on ambitious reduction targets. He said such an accord among all major countries will be a precondition for Japan's new pledge to the international community.

We believe it was quite right for Hatoyama to have said that the nation would start tackling the 25 percent reduction target only after all the major greenhouse gas emitters, including the United States and China--the world's two largest greenhouse gas producers, make efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

As for convincing the world's major countries to participate in efforts to address global warming, however, Hatoyama himself must press other countries to take action through summit meetings and other occasions. In particular, he has to persuade China, which has refused to shoulder any numerical emission-reduction obligations, in cooperation with other industrialized countries.


Hatoyama overreaching

Above all, is the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels an appropriate target? Hatoyama's proposal is expected to fuel debate across Japan. The proposal translates into a 30 percent emission cut compared with 2005 levels, far higher than the reduction goals set by the United States and the European Union of 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Because the target is expected to require strict regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, the proposal has drawn strong objections from the industrial sector, mainly out of concerns that it would have an adverse effect on the economy.

According to a projection by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Taro Aso, the country's households will end up having to spend 360,000 yen more a year for the country to meet the 25-percent reduction goal.

Once Hatoyama announces the plan at the U.N. meeting, it is highly likely to become the minimum reduction goal to be imposed in an international accord that will take the place of the Kyoto Protocol. The new government is advised to avoid having the plan become Japan's international pledge at this stage, when no domestic agreement has yet been reached.


Effect difficult to gauge

What kind of impact will the plan have on people's livelihoods? Hatoyama must thoroughly explain this point to the public first.

In the case of the 25 percent reduction target, it remains unclear how much will be reduced through domestic efforts.

Currently, Japan has been finding it difficult to achieve the Kyoto Protocol goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. In order to make up for shortfalls to meet the target, the government plans to purchase emissions quotas from other countries. The amount of emissions quotas to be purchased is said to total about 200 billion yen.

Such an ill-advised policy must not be repeated in the framework of the post-Kyoto Protocol agreement.

Hatoyama stated that industrialized countries should provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries striving to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The energy-saving technology that has been developed and fostered in Japan will serve as important tools to help the entire world cut greenhouse gas emissions.

What Japan has to do is not set a high reduction goal, but contribute by helping other countries slash emissions through realistic measures.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 9, 2009)
(2009年9月9日01時13分 読売新聞)

新内閣骨格人事 政権引き継ぎを円滑に進めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 8, 2009)
Smooth transfer of power essential
新内閣骨格人事 政権引き継ぎを円滑に進めよ(9月8日付・読売社説)

The main lineup of the new cabinet in the administration of incoming Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has been decided. Preparations need to be expedited so that the transfer of power can be smoothly realized in the launch of the new administration next week.

Democratic Party of Japan Acting President Naoto Kan will be appointed state strategy minister, a post to which DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama attaches the greatest importance. Party Secretary General Katsuya Okada and Hirofumi Hirano, head of the DPJ executives' secretariat, will assume the posts of foreign minister and chief cabinet secretary, respectively. DPJ Supreme Adviser Hirohisa Fujii is expected to be named finance minister.

The new cabinet is expected to tackle a number of difficult problems, but the business of governing the country requires constant effort and attention. Because the new cabinet is expected to include many who have no cabinet experience, there are both expectations of and anxieties about the incoming administration.

Because the sources of revenue to fund the child allowance program and other new policies still remain uncertain, how will the new government compile the fiscal 2010 budget while paying attention to economic stimulus measures? How will it deal with the U.N. General Assembly and the Group of 20 financial summit scheduled for later this month?

To minimize confusion after its launch, the new cabinet needs to make effective use of the run-up period prior to the special Diet session on Sept. 16 and coordinate policies both within the party and with other parties.


Setting priorities

It is important to closely examine the party's election pledges and prioritize them on the basis of how urgent the need is for their implementation.

It will not be acceptable for the new government to waste time in setting up new organs, such as the national strategy bureau that will be under the direct control of the prime minister, and reviewing the rules governing the interaction between policymakers and bureaucrats, consequently delaying the undertaking of the cabinet's essential tasks.

It is desirable for the new government to hold detailed discussions to the greatest extent possible not only on personnel affairs concerning high-ranking government officials but also new systems and rules before it takes office.

The national strategy bureau, to be headed by Kan, will assume the role of drawing up principles for drafting the budget and charting the broad outlines of foreign policy, in addition to comprehensively coordinating policies.

The bureau will also act as the control tower for the new government to carry out the DPJ policy of ending the deference of the nation's political circles to bureaucrats.


Tackling the bureaucracy

Kan dealt with problems caused by HIV-tainted blood products as health and welfare minister in the coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake (Pioneers). Subsequently, as an opposition member, he pursued various other problems, such as wasteful spending by bureaucrats and the so-called amakudari practice in which retiring high-ranking government officials take up lucrative jobs at agencies and other organizations they previously dealt with while public servants. Hatoyama decided to give the new post to Kan, apparently concluding that he is suited to reforming Kasumigaseki, the center of the country's bureaucracy.

We have no objections to "politician-led" politics and drastically cutting wasteful spending, but what is needed now is not playing to the gallery by bashing bureaucrats as opposition party members often do, but ideas and strategies to put bureaucrats under the government's control.

Okada, who is to assume the post of foreign minister, is well-versed in policy and has built personnel connections in the United States and other countries through his visits overseas. On the other hand, as he is often derided as a fundamentalist, some have voiced concerns over rigidity in his policies.

As for the new government's diplomatic policies, concerns have been expressed over Japan-U.S. relations because of the DPJ's coalition with the SDP and Hatoyama's recent op-ed piece published in The New York Times that caused a stir by expressing views that appeared to be critical of the United States.

If Japan-U.S. relations became unstable, it will cast a shadow on the Asia-oriented diplomacy the DPJ emphasizes. It will be necessary for the new government to pay careful attention to building a relationship of trust between Japan and the United States.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 8, 2009)
(2009年9月8日01時12分 読売新聞)

税制改正 財源確保に道筋をつけよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 7, 2009)
DPJ must ensure it can pay for its tax policy
税制改正 財源確保に道筋をつけよ(9月7日付・読売社説)

The imminent birth of a government led by the Democratic Party of Japan will mark the start of great changes to the nation's taxation system--changes that will directly impact our daily lives.

In its manifesto for the Aug. 30 House of Representatives election, the DPJ said it would abolish income tax deductions for spouses and dependents, and drastically review special tax exemption measures currently in place, including some corporate tax breaks.

This amounts to a de facto tax increase by the DPJ, which is trying to secure a revenue stream to finance the party's much publicized child-allowance scheme.

Simply reading the party's manifesto does not give us a clear picture of how the burden of individual households and corporations will change.

The DPJ must immediately set about deciding which parts of the current tax system should be revised, so it can provide the public with concrete details of its new tax system.


All give and no take

The DPJ will need to rake in annual revenue of 5.3 trillion yen to enable it to distribute the 26,000 yen a month per child it promised to give households with children of middle school age or younger. For the first year, the DPJ will pay out only half the allowance. The party also has stated it will not abolish the tax deductions currently in place until fiscal 2011.

In pressing ahead with its plan to introduce the child rearing allowances before abolishing some tax deductions, the party presumably has an eye on meeting its campaign promises to make sure it can claim an achievement in the run-up to next year's House of Councillors election.

However, if the party avoids asking the public to accept an increased tax burden, painful to voters, and in doing so postpones the introduction of measures that are needed to secure revenue sources it will not be able to be judged as having met its election pledges.

The abolition of deductions should be discussed when drawing up tax revisions for next fiscal year, which come at the year's end, to ensure they are ready to be introduced.

The across-the-board child-rearing allowances has come in for some criticism, with some saying the system should be income-tested. If necessary, the party should not hesitate to change the amount, the period for which it is handed out and the method by which the allowances are distributed.

There are about 300 items covered by the special tax exemption measures, and that is regarding national taxes alone. The total value of the tax breaks comes to 7.3 trillion yen.

The tax breaks were effectively introduced as temporary measures, taken to achieve such things as the promotion of certain industries, but quite a few measures were then extended despite their original purposes being fulfilled.

Indeed, it is important to review such measures to ascertain their purposes and necessity. However, the termination of even opaque measures does not guarantee that new revenue sources will immediately be created.

A good sum of income from taxes could be generated if special measures that involve the granting of large tax cuts are terminated. However, suspension of such a large tax break also will have a sizable negative impact.

Some measures were introduced to aid the socially vulnerable, such as making interest on the savings of disabled people exempt from tax, and to spur economic growth, such as tax breaks for investment in facilities by mid- and small-sized companies.

It may be necessary for the new administration to make some of the special tax measures permanent if it determines they should be maintained. The DPJ should not forcibly cancel any tax break solely on the basis of prioritizing the securing of revenues over all other considerations.


New procedure for tax changes

The DPJ also plans to change the mechanism by which tax system revisions are made. Until now, the government's Tax Commission and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's Research Commission on Tax System concurrently have been steering tax-related policies. The DPJ is to integrate the works under a new governmental tax panel to be created within the government. The new tax commission most likely will comprise only Diet members.

Since tax revisions will affect the interests of a wide array of people and companies, the DPJ must listen extensively to concerns and demands of as many of the concerned parties as possible.

If the new government already only has a few months left to study and decide on its tax system revisions for next fiscal year. As soon as prime minister-in-waiting Yukio Hatoyama launches his new cabinet, he must pull it into shape and ensure it gets straight to work on the matter.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 7, 2009)
(2009年9月7日01時18分 読売新聞)

公明党敗北 出直しに与党経験を生かせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 6, 2009)
For New Komeito a time to reflect, rebuild
公明党敗北 出直しに与党経験を生かせ(9月6日付・読売社説)

The two highest-ranking members of New Komeito--its leader and secretary general--lost their seats in last Sunday's House of Representatives election, marking the most crushing defeat for the party since its foundation.

It should now calmly examine the causes of its defeat and learn lessons from it for its renewal.

All eight Komeito candidates fielded in single-seat constituencies lost their seats and the party won 21 seats in the proportional representation section of the election, which is fewer than the 25 seats it gained in the 1967 lower house election, the first lower house poll in which Komeito participated. It is no exaggeration to say the party is now facing its greatest crisis.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, chairman of the party's Policy Research Council, is expected to become the new party leader. What he and the new leadership must do first is rebuild the party ahead of the House of Councillors election next summer.


Tied to falling LDP

There is no doubt that the resounding defeat of Komeito--which has a solid support base in lay buddhist organization Soka Gakkai--is due to the strong headwind of voter dissatisfaction that blew against the Liberal Democratic Party. Komeito was effectively toppled with its coalition partner.

Komeito garnered about 8.05 million votes in the proportional representation section of the election, about 700,000 to 900,000 votes fewer than it achieved in the previous two polls. The party's defeat may also be attributed to the fact that the party was not able to collect many votes cast by supporters of the LDP this time.

Moreover, it is undeniable that the election result was partly due to the fact that Komeito was tarred with the same brush as the scandal-hit LDP. Komeito was unable to promote itself as a unique party, finding that it had slowly been cast into oblivion over the past decade spent as the LDP's junior coalition partner.

Komeito apparently had some problems in deciding on its policies. For example, the party always took a reluctant stance toward the utilization of the Self-Defense Forces at key moments, including the Afghan and Iraq wars launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, because they succumbed to the deep-rooted "nonmilitarism and peace" orientation of Soka Gakkai members.

It was Komeito that took the initiative in realizing the flat-sum cash benefit program on which the administration of Prime Minister Taro Aso spent a hefty 2 trillion yen. However, the program has had a limited effect in terms of stimulating the economy and was criticized as pork-barreling.

During the final stage of the administration of former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, senior Komeito members made remarks that could be construed as calling for Fukuda to be replaced. Some observers also have pointed out that Komeito grew conceited due to its increased influence over the LDP it achieved through vital support it gave the LDP in elections.

On the other hand, the experience gained by Komeito during its time in the LDP-Komeito coalition must surely be a valuable asset. Previously in perpetual opposition as a force that only criticized the ruling party, Komeito's time in power has made it aware of the political responsibilities of a ruling party, and has given it experience in planning and implementing realistic policies and formulating foreign and national security policies from a global standpoint.


Avoid cozying up to DPJ

We hope Komeito will rebuild itself by studying and drawing on its experiences as a ruling coalition party, which are formed of both good and bad aspects.

Komeito likely will adopt an issue-by-issue stance toward the Democratic Party of Japan, but it must avoid the foolish act of snuggling up to the new administration without first considering its policies.

Komeito must act with courage in taking policies to the public, even if they might cause an increased burden, and convince them of the need for hard-to-sell policies rather than pandering to populism.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 6, 2009)
(2009年9月6日01時21分 読売新聞)

小沢民主幹事長 試される鳩山代表の統率力

Yomiuri Shinbun より抜粋

副大臣、vice ministers,
政務官、parliamentary secretaries,
大臣補佐官、advisers to ministers
secretary general、 幹事長


The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 5, 2009)
Ozawa will test Hatoyama's mettle
小沢民主幹事長 試される鳩山代表の統率力(9月5日付・読売社説)

Acting Democratic Party of Japan President Ichiro Ozawa is set to become the party's secretary general, a crucial position at the heart of the administration to be inaugurated under prime minister in waiting Yukio Hatoyama.

Hatoyama, who is DPJ president, has been at pains to explain that he appointed Ozawa because he guided the DPJ to a landslide victory in the House of Representatives election Sunday.
"We managed to win more than 300 seats thanks to Acting President Ozawa," Hatoyama said.

Of course, this cannot be the only reason for his appointment.

Hatoyama apparently plans to put Ozawa in charge of the DPJ campaign for next summer's House of Councillors election so the party can snatch a single-party majority in the upper house and form an administration that can hold sway over both chambers of the Diet.

The DPJ has grown into a political juggernaut holding a total of nearly 420 seats in the upper and lower houses. Hatoyama seems to believe that he needs the influence and experience of Ozawa, who once served as secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, to ensure all the members of the big party keep pulling in the same direction.

However, Ozawa's appointment as DPJ secretary general also has raised some concerns in the political arena.


New kids on the block

The ranks of Ozawa supporters within the DPJ have swollen with the arrival of dozens of rookie candidates--dubbed "Ozawa kids" because he managed their nominations and campaign preparations--in the last election. Some observers have suggested Ozawa could end up wielding too much influence over the management of party affairs.

Under LDP-led governments, the party held more influence over policy decisions than the administration did. However, the DPJ wants to reverse this balance and give more power to the envisaged administration.

However, achieving this goal will be no easy feat if Ozawa, who is a top party official but not a member of the envisaged cabinet, throws his weight around on policy decisions.

Hatoyama quoted Ozawa as saying during their talks Thursday night that he would not, in principle, be involved in making policy decisions since the government is supposed to do that.

Ozawa's remark about his "nonintervention in policy decisions" emboldened Hatoyama enough to tell reporters that Ozawa's appointment would not create a dual system of power. But we have doubts about whether this will really be the case.


DPJ must stay united

Hatoyama said a total of about 100 lawmakers would be allocated to government ministries and agencies as ministers, vice ministers, parliamentary secretaries, advisers to ministers and in other positions so the government can be the sole arbiter of policy decisions.

However, policies drafted by such lawmakers cannot be implemented unless they are written up as bills and pass both Diet chambers. Enacting bills requires the cooperation of the party--including the secretary general, who has responsibility over Diet affairs as part of party management.

Hatoyama has a responsibility to exercise firm leadership to keep Ozawa on a short leash so he does not run away with the party.

Meanwhile, preparations for the transition of power are running late. Even a brief intermission is impermissible in politics. Hatoyama should choose his lineup of key ministers as soon as possible.

Ozawa has been criticized in the past for his attitude and high-handed behavior, such as missing important meetings or refusing to provide detailed explanations. Ozawa will have to correct his ways if he is to become secretary general of the nation's largest party.

Now, more than ever, Ozawa will need to offer greater accountability over the scandal involving illicit donations from Nishimatsu Construction Co. that eventually led to the indictment of his government-funded secretary.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 5, 2009)
(2009年9月5日01時16分 読売新聞)

鳩山対米外交 信頼構築へ言動が問われる

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 4, 2009)
Actions speak louder than words on U.S. ties
鳩山対米外交 信頼構築へ言動が問われる(9月4日付・読売社説)

Words alone are not enough to build a relationship of trust between Japan and the United States. Actions also will be important for crafting deeper ties.

During his telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama, Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama said the Japan-U.S. security alliance remained the "foundation" of Japan's foreign policy. The two leaders also agreed that their nations would build future-oriented relations. Hatoyama echoed these comments during his meeting Thursday with new U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos.

A call from the U.S. president and a visit by the ambassador so soon after the DPJ's landslide victory in the House of Representatives election indicates that the U.S. government attaches great importance to ties with Japan but, at the same time, is concerned about the future bilateral relationship.

These anxieties stemmed partly from Hatoyama's recent op-ed piece in The New York Times that caused a stir by expressing views that appeared to be critical of the United States.


Article invited confusion

The article, which was published in the newspaper's electronic version as a translated excerpt from an article originally carried in a monthly Japanese magazine, contained comments including, "Japan has been continually buffeted by the winds of market fundamentalism in a U.S.-led movement...Consequently, human dignity is lost," and Japan and other Asian nations "want to restrain U.S. political and economic excesses."

Hatoyama later explained that he did not intend to espouse anti-U.S. views in the article. But it is undeniable that the article included expressions critical of the United States and, as a result, gave the impression it was anti-U.S.

Reaction in the United States also has been shaped by mounting distrust against DPJ policy planks such as opposition to the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling activities in the Indian Ocean and calls for reviewing the planned realignment of U.S. forces stationed in Japan.

Hatoyama is no longer a mere opposition leader; he will soon become this nation's prime minister. He should remember that his remarks carry considerable weight.

He should not simply stick to underlining differences between his party and the government and ruling parties, as he did while he was an opposition member. Rather, Hatoyama should commit himself to preserving policies that deserve to be kept in place and develop them into better ones.

Hatoyama has a busy--and important--diplomatic schedule coming up. He is expected to hold his first summit meeting with Obama later this month around the time when a U.N. General Assembly meeting is to be held. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to visit Japan in October, and Obama is penciled in to visit Japan in November.


United stance needed

Initially, Hatoyama might only be obliged to pay lip service to the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance. But words by themselves will certainly not be enough over the long term.

Tokyo and Washington face a raft of important issues that must be tackled together, such as the fight against terrorism, North Korea's nuclear ambitions, the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, and reviving the staggering world economy. What role will Japan play to resolve these issues? If the DPJ intends to end the refueling mission, it must present concrete alternative measures.

During talks with the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party aimed at striking a deal on forming a coalition, the DPJ proposed that pursuing a close and equal alliance with the United States be included as a policy in a consensus document among the parties. The DPJ apparently wants to make more demands of the United States than ever before.

However, the party should not forget that, as long as it intends to be more willing to speak its mind, it must bear due responsibilities in the international community.

Hatoyama's repeated verbal overtures seeking a relationship of trust with Obama will not amount to anything unless they are backed up with actions.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 4, 2009)
(2009年9月4日01時28分 読売新聞)

連立政権協議 現実的な安保政策が不可欠だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 3, 2009)
New coalition govt needs realistic security policy
連立政権協議 現実的な安保政策が不可欠だ(9月3日付・読売社説)

The Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party began talks Wednesday on forming a tripartite coalition government.

However, before forming their coalition, it is vital that they reach a consensus over policy issues, as any outstanding ambiguities will lead to serious problems in the future. All three parties must be prepared to make necessary adjustments to their respective policies.

The DPJ won an unprecedented 308 seats in Sunday's House of Representatives election, though it has less than a single-party majority in the House of Councillors. The DPJ is thus forging a coalition government with the SDP and the PNP in an apparent attempt to ensure policy measures are carried out in a stable manner.

In previous coalition governments, there have been a number of cases in which small parties have stuck steadfastly to their individual policies to stress the significance of their existence within the government. However, this merely caused confusion. The DPJ should learn lessons from such precedents and be wary about making easy concessions.

The SDP is demanding that a ruling coalition organ be established to review bills and other policies before they are approved by the Cabinet. Though this kind of body has existed in the past, it likely would cause problems this time around, as it would contradict the DPJ's policy to make its administration the sole arbiter vis-a-vis policy decisions.

Meanwhile, it is rumored that DPJ Acting President Ichiro Ozawa likely will be given an important post within the DPJ, but not as part of the Cabinet. However, Ozawa has many supporters and wields considerable influence, and if he has a large say in policy decisions, it would lead once again to a dual system of power.


Common policies

The coalition talks are based on "common policies" for six items--including a freeze on the consumption tax rate--that the three parties agreed upon prior to the lower house election.

However, the real issues to be thrashed out during the talks are foreign and security policies. These topics were not included in the common policies because the parties' respective stances are so different.

For example, the DPJ believes that Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels should continue their refueling mission in the Indian Ocean until January, but the SDP is demanding an immediate pullout.

In addition, the DPJ approves of the MSDF's antipiracy mission in waters off Somalia, while the SDP insists the Japan Coast Guard should be running the operation.

The refueling mission represents Japan's sole contribution of personnel to international efforts against terrorism, and the nation's efforts are highly appreciated by the countries concerned. We believe it is a matter of course that this mission continue, even after January.

Furthermore, it is unrealistic for the JCG to take the place of the MSDF in the antipiracy mission in light of differences in their respective equipment and backup systems.


Wasted negotiations?

A more pressing concern is that both the DPJ and the SDP have policies to review the plan to relocate U.S. forces in Japan. According to the plan, the transfer of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Ginowan to the shores of Camp Schwab in Nago, both in Okinawa Prefecture, would occur five years from now.

If this planned transfer is canceled, 13 years of negotiations between the Japanese and U.S. governments will have been for naught, and the return of the air station site to Japan will be deferred. In addition, a plan to relocate 8,000 marines to Guam--a measure aimed at alleviating burdens on people in the prefecture--would be scrapped.

It is completely understandable that a U.S. State Department spokesman on Monday said Washington will never renegotiate the relocation plan.

In the world of diplomacy, it is not possible under normal circumstances for one nation's desires to be completely realized. Therefore, the DPJ should never compromise its flexibility nor reduce its options in diplomatic affairs by sticking to the various stances it adopted as the opposition when it was criticizing the government.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 3, 2009)
(2009年9月3日01時30分 読売新聞)

自民党再出発 後継総裁選びを急ぐべきだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 2, 2009)
Defeat leaves LDP at political crossroads
自民党再出発 後継総裁選びを急ぐべきだ(9月2日付・読売社説)

The Liberal Democratic Party has begun to choose a new party president to succeed Prime Minister Taro Aso, who has announced he will step down as party leader to take responsibility for the LDP's crushing defeat in Sunday's House of Representatives election.

Can the LDP play a role in a system in which power alternates between two major political parties? Can the LDP fulfill its role as an opposition party and keep a close eye on the administration led by Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama? The LDP still has serious responsibilities to live up to even after being relegated to the opposition benches.

The LDP must quickly select a new party president to lead its reconstruction.

However, the LDP intends to put off the party presidential election until after mid-September when a special Diet session is to be called to elect the new prime minister. According to the LDP, the purpose is to listen to the opinions of the prefectural chapters and other local party organizations, and rank-and-file party members, and to reflect them in the party presidential election. But under such circumstances, LDP lawmakers will vote for the current prime minister and LDP president, Taro Aso, in the Diet session.

It is a little pathetic that, even as a makeshift measure, the LDP will recommend as prime minster the party president who will step down from the post after voters said "no" to him in the general election.


Antipathy toward Aso

Several LDP lawmakers oppose the postponement of the party presidential election, asserting that they would rather cast a blank ballot than have to write "Aso" in the Diet's vote on the prime minister. If the party falls into confusion, it could lead to a party split. The LDP should take the current situation seriously.

It is important to listen to the voices of members of local party chapters and other related organizations, but does the LDP have a month to spare to reflect these opinions in the party presidential election?

It took only about 10 days to choose a new party president when changing from former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa to Yohei Kono, and from former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. It is time for the LDP to select a new party president as soon as possible and prepare to face the Hatoyama administration.

Of course, when doing so, it is natural that the LDP should seek input from party chapters and members across the country and reflect those opinions in the efforts to reconstruct the party.


Party on the brink

The LDP faces the greatest crisis since its foundation. Whether a leader who can clearly display his intentions and vision for party reconstruction will emerge is of paramount importance. Politicians who are always keeping an eye on the movements of party factions are not qualified to lead.

To rebuild the party, it is indispensable to thoroughly review the reasons for its crushing defeat in the general election.

Although the direction of the party's fundamental principles and policies is not basically wrong, the market fundamentalism and excessive structural changes under the administration of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi have invited the expansion of the income gap and economically exhausted provincial areas. It also is necessary to review the "theatrical politics," or sensationalist political approach seen under the Koizumi administration.

Some observers point out that the LDP has never been an organized political party because support groups for individual party lawmakers virtually act as party chapters. In addition, the LDP election campaign strategy, which has more and more come to rely on coalition partner New Komeito and Soka Gakkai, a lay Buddhist organization that is New Komeito's main supporter, has weakened the foundations of the LDP's original support bases.

The public will be watching closely to see whether the LDP can make a strong comeback and regain control of the government. If the party remains stupefied for long, the reputation of the LDP, which had long been a ruling party, will be ruined.

(From the Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 2, 2009)
(2009年9月2日01時41分 読売新聞)

政権移行始動 基本政策は継続性が重要だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Sep. 1, 2009)
Continuity important for basic policies
政権移行始動 基本政策は継続性が重要だ(9月1日付・読売社説)

Democratic Party of Japan President Yukio Hatoyama has begun the process of launching a new administration. It is important for Hatoyama, first and foremost, to divide the policies pledged in the DPJ's manifesto into those that should be implemented immediately and those that the party should take time to fine-tune.


The DPJ has said that a new "national strategy bureau" that it will establish under the direct control of the prime minister will serve as a control tower for the government's budget compilation and foreign policy.

The central government ministries and agencies have submitted their respective budgetary requests for fiscal 2010 ahead of Monday's deadline. The DPJ, however, plans to review the budgetary request guidelines, which were approved by the Cabinet on July 1.

A total of 7.1 trillion yen will be needed in the next fiscal year to fund the child benefit program and other policies that the DPJ pledged in its manifesto. Although the DPJ has promised that an "administrative reform council," another new government body the DPJ plans to establish, will eliminate wasteful spending, can the necessary funds be squeezed out merely through belt-tightening measures?

The DPJ also is studying making savings by cutting some expenditures in the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget and appropriating the saved funds for the fiscal 2010 budget. But the party should deal carefully with the review of the supplementary budget, which is supporting the nation's economy.

Since the establishment of the national strategy bureau requires a revision of a related law, Hatoyama plans to first create a strategy office, which can be set up under a new government ordinance, and have it present the outline of the fiscal 2010 budget. Wasting time in creating the new organization, however, will end up delaying budget compilation.

Hatoyama should take to heart the importance of implementing economic measures speedily.

After being appointed prime minister at a special Diet session that is scheduled to be convened in the middle of this month, Hatoyama plans to visit the United States, where he will undertake summit diplomacy.

Hatoyama is scheduled to attend summit-level meetings on climate change and nuclear nonproliferation at the United Nations in New York and address the U.N. General Assembly. He also is scheduled to attend the Group of 20 financial summit meeting in Pittsburgh.


Emissions pledge unrealistic

Observers, however, have already voiced concerns about how Hatoyama will handle a midterm target for reducing Japan's emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases by the end of 2020.

The DPJ has proposed that the emissions of such gases be reduced by 25 percent from the 1990 levels.

If Hatoyama, as prime minister, repeats the DPJ's pledge at the General Assembly meeting or any other key international meetings, it is possible that Japan will be required to meet this numerical target under a successor treaty to the 2008-12 Kyoto Protocol being negotiated for conclusion by the end of December.

The goal of reducing gas emissions by 25 percent from the 1990 levels will not be attainable merely with halfhearted energy-saving efforts. It requires innovative technological development. But there are limits to what Japan can achieve.

Emissions cuts have economic side effects, such as downward pressure on gross domestic product, and damaging people's livelihoods.

The DPJ should take this power transfer as an opportunity to review the midterm target from a pragmatic perspective. At least, it should avoid the foolish act of constraining itself by presenting such a high target as an international pledge.

Hatoyama has stated that a DPJ-led administration will need to respect the need for continuity in diplomatic and security policies, to a certain extent.


民主党政権実現 変化への期待と重責に応えよ (2/1)

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Aug. 31, 2009)
DPJ must be responsible, live up to expectations
民主党政権実現 変化への期待と重責に応えよ(8月31日付・読売社説)

People's dissatisfaction with the Liberal Democratic Party's politics and their expectation that a new administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan can bring "change" has ushered in a historic change in power in this country.

 The DPJ romped to a landslide victory in the House of Representatives election Sunday, handing the LDP its most devastating defeat since the party was formed.

This is the first time since the end of World War II that an opposition party has won a single-party majority in the lower house and brought about a change in administration.

DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama, who is expected to be named prime minister in the special Diet session to be convened soon, will bear the heavy responsibility of managing the country.


Disappointment and weariness

The largest cause of this sea change in public sentiment lies in the LDP itself.

Policies taken by the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, which espoused the importance of market principles, widened disparities in society, devastated the country's medical and nursing care services and impoverished many rural areas.

Koizumi's successors--Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda--abruptly resigned as prime minister.

Prime Minister Taro Aso, who took over from Fukuda, suffered a string of self-imposed setbacks with verbal gaffes and other blunders that raised questions about his ability to serve as prime minister before he could correct the policy line taken by the Koizumi administration.

The LDP lost its status as the largest party in the House of Councillors after a thumping defeat in the 2007 election. Subsequently, the LDP's support organizations and industrial groups that traditionally supported the party began to increasingly distance themselves from the LDP.

In short, it can be said that the LDP's historic defeat was brought about by the collapse of its structural reforms that went too far, its leaders' failure to live up to their responsibilities and their lack of leadership ability, the alienation of its traditional support base, and weariness and disappointment with the administration that had been in power for a long time.

In addition to criticizing the LDP's failings, the DPJ wooed discontented voters by putting forward policies including support for households, such as a monthly child allowance for families and a gradual phasing out of highway tolls, as well as adopting election campaign tactics that included fielding a diverse range of candidates.

In the previous lower house election, the LDP was blessed with strong and favorable winds whipped up by the postal service privatization debate and the divisions wrought by the party's decision to put "assassin" candidates on the official party ticket to run against those LDP members who opposed the Koizumi-led postal reform drive and were forced off the party ticket.

The winds of change then took a sudden turn, swinging behind the DPJ, which advocates a change in power--and the favorable conditions have remained since the dissolution of the lower house, culminating in heavy damage to the LDP's junior coalition partner, New Komeito, too.

This development should be interpreted as meaning that the overwhelming sentiment among voters was to give the DPJ a chance to hold the reins of power, despite anxiety in the electorate about how a DPJ-led administration might fare.

Despite the DPJ's landslide victory, however, it does not mean voters have given the party an open-ended mandate.







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08 うまく言えないとき
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11 強めのあいづち
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13 相手のことを尋ねるとき
14 頼みごとをするとき
15 申し出・依頼を断るとき
16 許可を求めるとき
17 説明してもらうとき
18 確認を求めるとき
19 状況を知りたいとき
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