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2008年11月 1日 (土)

総選挙延期

2008/11/1--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 31(IHT/Asahi: November 1,2008)

EDITORIAL: Election postponed

衆院解散・総選挙―危機克服にこそ決断を

Prime Minister Taro Aso has apparently decided to postpone calling a Lower House election that was expected to be held as early as late November.

 11月末にもと見られた衆院の総選挙が先送りされることになった。 

While Aso did not address an election date during a news conference Thursday to announce additional measures to revitalize the economy, he said his administration's priority was to respond to the global financial crisis and the economic downturn. This suggests the election won't be held until early next year or later.

 麻生首相は新たな経済対策を発表した記者会見でそう明言はしなかったものの、金融危機や景気後退への対策を最優先すると表明した。総選挙は年明け以降にずれ込む公算が大きい。 

Events have transpired quite differently from what Aso had apparently expected.

 首相自身にとっても、とんだ目算の狂いだったに違いない。 

In an essay he penned for the November issue of the Bungei Shunju monthly magazine immediately after he was elected Liberal Democratic Party president in September, Aso laid out his policy vision.

 9月、自民党総裁選の直後に筆をとったという「文芸春秋」への寄稿で、首相は自らの政権プランをこう書いている。 

Disappointed expectations

■首相のもくろみ違い 

He wrote the following: "I have decided at the beginning of the Diet session, to present my policy proposals and those of the LDP to (Minshuto) President (Ichiro) Ozawa and urge him to make clear whether he supports or opposes them. Then, I will ask for a new mandate from the people. I think my first mission is to seek the people's verdict as a springboard to launch efforts to rebuild strong politics."

 「私は決断した……。国会の冒頭、堂々と私とわが自民党の政策を(民主党の)小沢代表にぶつけ、その賛否をただしたうえで国民に信を問おうと思う」「強い政治を取り戻す発射台として、まず国民の審判を仰ぐのが最初の使命だと思う」 

This suggests he planned to dissolve the Lower House for a snap election at the beginning of the Diet session. Things went as expected until he peppered Ozawa, leader of the main opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan), with questions in his first policy speech. After that, however, events began to take an unexpected turn.

 臨時国会冒頭の解散シナリオを思い描いていたのだろう。初の所信表明演説で民主党に次々と逆質問をぶつけたまではプラン通りだった。だが、そこから歯車が狂いだした。 

Aso's Cabinet approval ratings failed to rise to expected levels. The real contagion of the financial crisis that started in the United States began to break out, depressing the Tokyo stock market to below post-bubble lows while pushing up the value of the yen against the dollar and the euro. These developments wrecked not only his initial plan but also his backup strategy of dissolving the Lower House immediately after enactment of a supplementary budget to finance measures to deal with surging oil prices and other issues.

 内閣支持率が期待したほど上がらない。米国発の金融危機が深刻な影響を広げ、株価はバブル崩壊後の最安値を更新し、円も急騰した。原油高対策などを盛り込んだ補正予算を成立させた後にともくろんだ次の解散シナリオも、吹き飛んでしまった。 

Voter surveys by the LDP consistently predicted its defeat despite Aso's repeated pledges to re-energize the economy, providing a strong disincentive for the prime minister to call an early election.

 景気へのてこ入れをいくら強調しても、選挙情勢調査で「自民敗北」の傾向が変わらなかったことも響いた。 

Things are not going as he expected in other areas as well, as his magazine essay indicates.

 もくろみ違いはそればかりではない。首相は寄稿でこうも書いていた。 

"The party that wins the (next) election gains the right to initiate policy talks among parties because it has been given the voters' mandate," Aso wrote. "If I have a clear popular mandate, I believe I can end the futile partisan confrontation through tenacious efforts to persuade the opposition camp."

 「勝利した側の政党がその直近の民意を背景に政党間協議を主導するのだ」「国民の信が私の背にあれば、粘り強く野党を説得し、不毛な対決に終止符を打てると信じている」 

Continued political uncertainty

■国会も政策も混迷へ 

The LDP-led ruling coalition lost its control of the Upper House through its disastrous defeat in the chamber's election in July 2007, when Shinzo Abe was prime minister. Since then, national politics have been trapped in a crippling gridlock. Abe's successor, Yasuo Fukuda, had extreme difficulty trying to push through his policy initiatives in the face of a twisted Diet, where the Upper House is controlled by the opposition camp.

Obviously, Aso believes that even if the ruling coalition loses its two-thirds dominance in the Lower House in the next election, winning a simple majority would allow the alliance to regain political leadership and push ahead with its policy agenda. That's straight thinking.

安倍政権の時の参院選で惨敗し、与党が多数を失って以来、次の福田政権時代の国会運営は難渋を極めた。仮に総選挙で衆院での3分の2の多数を失うことになっても、過半数を占めれば主導権を取り戻し、政治を前に進めることができる。そんな麻生氏の考え方は極めてまっとうなものだ。 

But his decision to put off calling an election means he likely will face a much more difficult situation in the Diet. As expectations of an early election have faded, Minshuto has shifted the focus of its political strategy to all-out efforts to block the ruling camp's policy initiatives. Under the current Diet situation, none of the bills opposed by Minshuto in the Upper House can be enacted unless the Lower House passes them for a second time using the ruling camp's two-thirds majority. That means nothing but a replay of the legislative impasse during the Fukuda administration.

 だが、総選挙の先送りで、今後の国会の状況は再び困難なものになりそうだ。民主党は徹底抗戦にかじを切った。民主党が反対する法案は、衆院で再可決しなければ何ひとつ通らなくなる。何のことはない、福田政権時代への逆戻りである。 

It is understandable that Aso is stressing the need to focus on tackling the tough policy challenges confronting the nation for the time being, instead of considering an election. But his policy proposals are also showing increasing signs of confusion within the government.

 首相が「政局より政策」と力むのも分からなくはない。だが、肝心の政策の方も混迷を深めている。 

The new fiscal stimulus package announced Thursday contains many measures that must be implemented as quickly as possible. They include steps to promote full-time employment of nonregular workers, financial support to help small- and medium-sized companies procure the necessary funds to finance their daily operations and measures to stabilize financial markets.

 新たな対策には、非正規労働者の雇用促進や中小企業の資金繰り支援、金融市場の安定化策など、できるだけ早く実行しなければならない課題が盛り込まれている。 

Still, the plan to distribute cash totaling 2 trillion yen to all households appears to be nothing more than an outright budgetary handout to win votes in the election since the economy-lifting effects of it are questionable. The medium-term program for fiscal and tax reforms, which is being drafted under Aso's instructions to clarify how social security programs will be financed, appears to be hastily crafted and half-baked.

 しかし、景気浮揚効果に疑問符のつく「定額給付金」は、選挙向けの露骨なバラマキといわれても仕方ない。社会保障の財源を明記せよと首相が指示した中期プログラムは、付け焼き刃にも見える。

At Thursday's news conference, Aso said he will seek to raise the consumption tax rate in three years. We welcome his candor on the need to increase the people's tax burden. But the ruling camp's decision on the issue has been left to year-end tax debate.

首相は記者会見で「3年後には消費税の引き上げをお願いしたい」と補った。恐れず負担増を語ったのは歓迎だが、与党内の決着は年末の税制論議に先送りされた。 

In December, the government will put together budget bills for the next fiscal year. It will have to sort out a raft of tough budget issues, including how to fund the scheduled hike in the ratio of state financing of basic pension benefits and allocate tax revenues currently earmarked for road construction after they are shifted into the general revenue account.

 12月には来年度予算案の編成が待ち受ける。基礎年金の国庫負担引き上げに伴う財源をどうするのか。一般財源化するという道路特定財源をどう振り分けるのか。まさに難題山積だ。 

Aso now has to grapple with all the challenges he originally planned to start tackling after the Lower House election. He is probably feeling in a hopeless quandary.

 総選挙後に、と決め込んでいた宿題が一気に降りかかる。首相は泥沼にはまったような思いではなかろうか。 

If he really wants to break this political deadlock, Aso's only hope is in calling an early election to seek a clear public mandate as he originally intended so that his party can regain political leadership.

 この難局を首相が本気で打開しようとするなら、結局は原点に戻って早期の総選挙で信を問い、政治に力強さを取り戻すしかあるまい。 

The damaging effects of the financial crisis on the real economy will become increasingly pronounced in coming months. The economic hard times are likely to last for several years. It would be bad politics to waste precious fiscal resources on dubious, short-term policy measures that pander to voters.

 金融危機の実体経済への影響が深刻になるのはこれからだ。数年は続くと見た方が正解だろう。選挙への思惑を絡めた短期的な対策で貴重な財源を使い果たすのは愚策である。

Early next year, at the latest

■遅くとも年明けには 

The government should map out a grand plan to stoke domestic demand based on a long-term vision and establish a system to implement it. That's Japan's responsibility to the world economy and the only way for the nation to compete favorably with the United States and Europe. It would likely entail considerable pain for the people. That's why this nation badly needs a government that can provide strong and effective leadership.

 長期的なビジョンに基づく大胆な内需拡大策を描き、実行していく体制をつくることだ。それが世界経済に対する日本の役割であり、米欧との競争に勝つための方途でもある。国民に痛みを強いることもあるだろう。強い指導力を持つ政権こそが必要なのだ。 

Some people may argue that creating a month-long political vacuum to hold an election would be unacceptable under current circumstances. But a continuation of the current political confusion under an administration that cannot exert leadership will create an even more serious vacuum. The current situation could cause the nation to lose even more of its international clout.

 この緊急時に総選挙で1カ月もの空白をつくるわけにはいかない、という見方もあるかもしれない。だが、政治の混迷と指導力に欠ける政権が続く方がはるかに「空白」なのではあるまいか。今のままでは国際的な発信力も地に落ちてしまいかねない。 

Aso also plans to seek the passage of a second extra budget to finance the new stimulus package. If so, Aso cannot dissolve the Lower House until the end of the year, at the earliest, or possibly the beginning of the next year. If Aso doesn't call an election by early next year, the political schedule will make it difficult for him to do so in the months ahead because of a series of major scheduled events, such as budget debate in the Diet, the Tokyo metropolitan assembly election and the Group of Eight summit. The tight political schedule could cause the election to be delayed until September, when the term of the current Lower House members expires.

 首相は、今回の対策を盛った第2次補正予算案の成立を目指す構えだ。だとすれば、解散は早くても年末、もしくは年明けになる。そこを逃せば来年度予算案の審議、東京都議選、主要国サミットなどの日程が続く。ずるずると9月の任期満了選挙に至ってしまう可能性すら出てこよう。それはこの国のためにならない。 

That would be bad for the nation.

Aso should decide to call an election by the year-end or early next year. As for the extra budget, the ruling and opposition camps should work together to separate measures of urgent need from those on which they disagree so that the former can be implemented quickly. At that time, both camps should list the latter on their respective election manifestoes and seek public support in the election. Minshuto should cooperate on this.

 首相は年末か年明けまでに解散を決断すべきだ。補正予算案にしても、与野党で話し合い、早急に実施すべき緊急経済対策と、主張に隔たりがある対策を仕分けし、前者の実現を急ぐ。後者についてはそれぞれのマニフェストに掲げ、総選挙で競い合うのだ。民主党はそのために協力すべきだ。 

That would be the quickest way for the nation to overcome this crisis.

 それが危機克服の近道である。

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