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2008年5月15日 (木)



EDITORIAL: Topsy-turvy politics



The Lower House on Tuesday approved, in a second round of voting, a bill to limit the use of road-specific tax revenues to road construction for 10 more years. This controversial bill was another that cleared the Lower House due to the governing coalition's two-thirds majority.

Lately, many upside-down political situations have come to pass that in the past would have been unthinkable.

First, the Maritime Self-Defense Force's refueling mission in the Indian Ocean was called off. Then it was resumed. Next, gasoline prices fell, only to surge again.

Although one could say this is the price the country has to pay for being a democracy, the shoddy state of today's politics must appall many voters.



controversial bill=問題の議案)(in the past would have been unthinkable=過去の例では考えられないような)(surge=物価が急騰する)


The main reason for such topsy-turvy situations is this: The ruling Liberal Democratic Party won the Lower House election by a landslide two years and eight months ago. Then, 10 months ago, the opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) took the most seats in the Upper House. Neither party is willing to acknowledge the other's "victory," and their obstinacy is the main reason the nation's political engine keeps stalling.



A decisive playoff vote is ultimately the only way to end this deadlock, and Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda ought to dissolve the Lower House as soon as possible and call an election.

But the prime minister is unlikely to do that for some time. His Cabinet's voter approval rating has slumped to around 20 percent, while Minshuto supporters now outnumber LDP supporters in surveys.



(decisive=決定的な、解決を与える)(voter approval rating=支持率)(slump=低下する、落ち込む)(outnumber=数でまさる、数で圧倒する)

Ironically, the more the Cabinet approval rating slides, the louder calls grow within the ruling coalition to delay the Lower House election--this from members who don't want to risk losing their seats. So the Fukuda administration keeps getting a reprieve. If the showdown continues to be postponed, what will happen this fall?



 (reprieve=一時逃れ)(showdown= 最終段階、最後のあがき、最後の土壇場)

Assuming the road-specific tax revenues are actually pooled into the general revenues account next fiscal year, what should that money be spent on? The road lobby is hardly likely to give up its vested interests. The prime minister has been offering to negotiate policy with Minshuto, but the latter will never agree to that.


obby=団体) (road lobby=道路族) (vested interests=既得権)

To increase the government share of basic pension costs to 50 percent from the present one-third, the government will have to decide this autumn whether to raise the consumption tax. Minshuto will likely dig in its heels on the issue.


dig in one’s heels=腰をすえて動かない)

The anti-terrorism special measures law expires next January. If this law is to be extended, a bill to that effect must be approved.

Having a two-thirds majority in the more powerful Lower House, the ruling coalition could force its bills through and get its way on each of these issues.

But each time it does that, it will prolong the chaos the country has experienced since the opposition camp became the majority force in the Upper House last year.

The people's disenchantment with this sort of political stalemate will only deepen.



chaos=混乱、無秩序) (disenchantment=打ち破られた夢、打ちひしがれた夢)(stalemate=行き詰まり)

Of course, even if the Lower House is dissolved and a snap election called, the power balance in the Diet won't change if the ruling coalition wins again. The coalition will likely lose its two-thirds majority.

However, the national political outlook will be refreshed to reflect the new will of the people.

And moves toward policy concessions, political reorganization or a new coalition can all be dealt with later.


snap election=臨時の選挙)(the national political outlook=日本の将来の政治に対する展望)(the new will of the people=新しい民意)

policy concessions=政策の譲歩)(political reorganization=政界再編)(new coalition=新しい連合、連立政権)

We suspect the prime minister hopes the Group of Eight summit this summer, or perhaps a Cabinet reshuffle, will change his dismal situation. But without an election showdown, the nation's political engine will just keep stalling.


dismal=陰鬱な、うっとうしい)(election showdown=開票の結果、選挙の結果、選挙による決着)

Both the ruling and opposition parties ought to be reshaping their manifestoes now in anticipation of the next Lower House election.

And the first thing the prime minister should do is explain exactly how he intends to spend those freed-up road-specific tax revenues.



The ruling and opposition parties alike must find the courage to show the public exactly where they stand on important matters such as health care for the elderly, the pension system and whether they plan to raise the consumption tax rate.



--The Asahi Shimbun, May 14(IHT/Asahi: May 15,2008)

朝日新聞5月14日号 (英語版 2008年5月15日発行)


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