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2008年12月10日 (水)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 9(IHT/Asahi: December 10,2008)

EDITORIAL: Sinking support for Aso


Recent media polls showed the support ratings for Prime Minister Taro Aso's Cabinet have plunged further from their already low levels. An Asahi Shimbun opinion poll found his government had the support of only 22 percent of voters. Similar surveys by two other major dailies, The Yomiuri Shimbun and The Mainichi Shimbun, put his rating at 21 percent.


The disapproval ratings, on the other hand, jumped to around 60 percent in all three surveys.


In the Asahi poll, 68 percent of the respondents said they didn't think Aso had the ability to deliver the things he promised. Aso was also outnumbered by Ichiro Ozawa, chief of opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan), in the voters' choice on which of the two is suited as the nation's leader.


The findings indicate a serious erosion of public confidence in Aso's leadership.


What is the biggest policy challenge facing the nation's political leaders? It is clearly protecting the quality of people's lives and the nation's economy from the effects of the global economic downturn.


The Aso government has two choices on how to deal with the situation. One option is to quickly enact a fresh supplementary budget to prop up the economy and devise a spending plan for next fiscal year while putting off a Lower House dissolution and snap election to prevent a political vacuum.


The other choice is to call an election as soon as possible to break the political gridlock and win a solid public mandate to lead the nation through this crisis.


Aso so far has opted for the former way. Instead of dissolving the Lower House for a snap election, Aso has spent the past two months or so in office working out policy measures to deal with the recession, including a proposal to hand out 2 trillion yen in cash to households.


The survey results should be clearly seen as the people's verdict on his efforts.

The Asahi Shimbun survey also showed that more than 80 percent of the respondents have been disappointed at Aso's job performance or had had no expectations for his government in the first place.


In all three surveys by the newspapers, a majority of the respondents called for an early Lower House election. The thinking of voters is that it is apparently impossible to respond effectively to the current economic crisis unless the nation's political world is revamped through an election.


The rapid deterioration of the economic situation, as indicated by recent job data, is stirring anxiety and discontent among the people.


Open criticism of the prime minister is now being heard even within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. There are also moves within the party to create new political groups. It is highly doubtful that the Aso administration can carry out its key policy tasks, such as compiling budget bills for next fiscal year and implementing tax reforms, under such circumstances.


Aso should heed this advice: Promise to dissolve the Lower House early next year and ask the opposition parties to support a second supplementary budget plan in return.



The prime minister may have to drop some of his proposals, including the cash handouts plan, which have been roundly condemned by the opposition camp. But there are economic measures that can be accepted by the opposition parties, including a program to help small and medium-sized companies secure the funds necessary to remain in business, as well as efforts to strengthen the employment safety net.


After these steps are taken, the ruling and opposition parties should seek public support for their economic-revival policies in a Lower House election. After voters make their choice, the defeated parties should cooperate in realizing the plans proposed by the winning parties.


Voters seem willing to accept a slight delay in the enactment of fiscal 2009 budget due to an election; they are holding out hope that the political leadership will regain the ability to sort out the tough policy challenges confronting the nation.


There are growing calls for a leadership change and political realignment in Tokyo's Nagatacho district, the nation's political power center. But political confusion will only prolong the leadership vacuum. Aso should make the decision to end this deadlock.



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