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2008年5月20日 (火)


(May. 20, 2008) The Yomiuri Shimbun

Fukuda must be decisive to win voter approval

内閣支持率低迷 「何をなすか」を鮮明に示せ(5月20日付・読売社説)

The approval rating for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has dropped to the 20 percent range, and unless it tackles policy issues head on and achieves results, it will be difficult for it to recover support.


head on=前向きに、果敢に)

In a Yomiuri Shimbun survey conducted last weekend, respondents who said they support the Fukuda Cabinet fell to 26.1 percent from 30 percent in the previous month, while those who did not climbed to 64.7 percent.


The Cabinet's current low approval rating may be attributable to public opposition to the restoration of the provisional gasoline tax rate and the start of the new medical insurance system for people aged 75 and older. Disapproval of the Cabinet increased across all age ranges.




Scandals and apologies


The approval ratings have been falling fairly consistently since the formation of the Fukuda Cabinet in September. There are several reasons for the decline.


The Cabinet mishandled problems such as the pension record-keeping fiasco; poisonings caused by Chinese-made dumplings; and a collision between a Maritime Self-Defense Force Aegis-equipped destroyer and a fishing boat. It also was hit by scandals, including a bribery case involving a former administrative vice defense minister.

In addition, the government has been prevented from acting decisively on important issues due to the divided Diet, in which the ruling parties have a majority in the House of Representatives and the opposition bloc controls the House of Councillors.



Whenever scandals have occurred or poor handling of problems has surfaced, Fukuda has been forced to apologize or explain himself to the public, and his Cabinet's approval ratings have dived each time.



It can be said that the pension record-keeping fiasco and problems with the new medical insurance system for people aged 75 and older are to some extent the legacy of the cabinets of former Prime Ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe.

The uncompromising attitude of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan also muddied the waters regarding the provisional gasoline tax rate and the selection of a new Bank of Japan governor.


legacy=遺産、遺物)(uncompromising=妥協しない、譲歩しない)(muddy the water=かき乱す、混乱させる)

However, there are many reasons for the Cabinet's low approval ratings that are solely attributable to Fukuda.


Speaking on the pension record-keeping fiasco, Fukuda carelessly remarked "Is this as serious as breaking a promise to the public [made by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in the upper house election campaign in the summer of 2007]?"


Commenting on commodity price hikes, Fukuda offended many voters when he said "It can't be helped"--a remark one might expect from a social commentator, and which was interpreted by some as implying he had washed his hands of the issue.


offend=人の感情を害する)(social commentator=評論家)(imply=意味する、暗示する)(wash one’s hands of the issue=責任を逃れる)

Regarding the appointment of a new central bank chief, Fukuda did not make careful preparations and failed to work hard to find a solution until the end. In doing so, he simply compounded his problems.



He made a political decision when he decided to free up the use of road-related tax revenues, allowing such funds to be transferred to general expenditure. But a combination of late timing of the decision and a lack of explanation, meant it did not lead to an increase in the approval rating for his Cabinet.


The bulk of those who said they did not support Fukuda's Cabinet said they could not understand his political direction--no doubt a reflection of public dissatisfaction with the prime minister's unclear political philosophy and attitude.



Clear message needed

What Fukuda should do now is to send a clear message to voters--who are concerned about their future--about what his administration stands for.


stand for=意味する)

To gain higher approval ratings for his Cabinet, Fukuda must swiftly implement drastic reform of the tax system, including the consumption tax, to build a solid social security system; create a consumer agency with people-oriented policies; and introduce strong measures against global warming before the Group of Eight summit meeting in Hokkaido in July.


consumer agency with people-oriented policies=消費者本位の消費者庁)

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 20, 2008)

20085200139  読売新聞)


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