The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 1, 2010)
Leaders must chart new political course
「ニッポン漂流」を回避しよう 今ある危機を乗り越えて(1月1日付・読売社説)

Will the nation's economy pick up? Will we be able to continue to receive medical and nursing care with a sense of assurance? Will a rift appear in Japan-U.S. relations?

Many people doubtless greeted the New Year with such concerns because the nation's lack of political direction and ongoing economic stagnation inspire fear rather than expectations in people and bring a sense of resignation rather than hope.

The primary reasons stem from Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's administration not only lacking the sort of mid- and long-term national strategy needed to maintain peace, prosperity and a safe, secure society, but also its failure to clearly show the people the course that the nation should take at the moment.

Without a national strategy, Japan will be left adrift on the rough seas of global politics--a dreadful situation.

Which direction should Japan take? What sort of nation should Japan seek to be? How will the nation draw its new state image? Our political leaders must shoulder the responsibility for guiding the nation through this critical time and present a bold national strategy to do so.

The dysfunctional nature of the Hatoyama administration is the result of the disproportionate influence wielded by the smaller members of the ruling coalition, the insistence on adhering strictly to the manifesto touted by the Democratic Party of Japan during the House of Representatives election in implementing policies and the obstinate stance of excluding bureaucrats from the policymaking process.

In addition, there is the scandal over questionable political donations involving Hatoyama's political fund management organization. Hatoyama has made it clear he intends to leave the matter of whether he should resign up to the voters. Depending on how public sentiment develops, it could lead to political upheaval. It also is possible that Japan's political world could be thrown into turmoil.

We cannot overlook the present situation in which the DPJ, the predominant party in the ruling camp, is at the mercy of its junior coalition partners--the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party--which, despite their small number of seats, hold the key to the fate of bills in the House of Councillors, distorting the fundamentals of the nation's foreign and security policies and fiscal and economic management.

The Hatoyama administration's postponing of its decision on the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture typifies this situation.

Hatoyama's indecision and the intercession of DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa and other officials whose top priority is maintaining the ruling coalition have led to the present critical juncture in the Japan-U.S. alliance.


1955 model worked

The merger of the Liberal Party and the Japan Democratic Party to create the Liberal Democratic Party in November 1955 was born out of a sense of crisis as these conservative parties witnessed the unification of the left and right factions of the Japan Socialist Party in October of the same year. Yet it was also aimed at heading off a power struggle among small splinter parties.

Then Deputy Prime Minister Taketora Ogata pointed out that leaving the deciding vote in the Diet in the hands of small parties would shake the public's trust in political rule by the majority, and emphasized the urgent need to bring political stability with the merger.

Although there were pros and cons to the so-called 1955 regime--in which the LDP controlled both houses of the Diet, and the JSP held roughly half the number of seats held by the LDP in each house--there is no doubt that it secured the nation's peace on the basis of the Japan-U.S. alliance and built the foundations for political stability under the LDP's single-party control and for the ensuing economic growth.

The Hatoyama Cabinet is under pressure to take the deciding vote away from its junior coalition partners.

When it comes to important policies and bills that could determine the fate of the nation and have a major impact on people's lives, the administration should not hesitate to form a temporary alliance and cooperate with opposition parties or even to form a national-unity administration through a bold political reorganization.