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2009年2月 1日 (日)



--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 30(IHT/Asahi: January 31,2009)

EDITORIAL: Questioning in the Diet


Is Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) seriously prepared to take over the administration? We could not help but ask this question after watching Minshuto Secretary-General Yukio Hatoyama take the floor of the Lower House on Thursday. Once again, Minshuto President Ichiro Ozawa had Hatoyama stand in for Diet questioning by party representatives.


In the extraordinary Diet session in October, Ozawa was the first to take the floor. Instead of questioning the prime minister, Ozawa virtually delivered a speech on what Minshuto intends to do when it comes to power. Although it was somewhat unusual, it was effective in shedding light on the difference between ruling and opposition parties before a Lower House election.


But this year, Ozawa has left the interpellation to Hatoyama two straight times, first in a session to discuss the second supplementary budget after the New Year holidays and for the second time on Thursday.


It is true that unlike one-on-one Diet debate between party leaders, they are not always obliged to ask questions in representative's questioning.


But Thursday's question-and-answer session in connection with Prime Minister Taro Aso's policy speech delivered the previous day was like a starter's gun to mark the opening of a showdown between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Minshuto leading up to the Lower House election that must be held by autumn.


In this time of crisis amid a worldwide recession, who should the public entrust to lead the nation: Prime Minister Aso or Minshuto President Ozawa? We wanted to see the two party leaders play hardball.


There are many points on which to question Aso's government, including: pressing measures to improve the economy and the employment situation; the proposed consumption tax hike, which ended with elusive wording; and the watered-down policy to incorporate road-specific tax revenues into the general account budget.


In a way, the questions posed by Hatoyama, who also explained Minshuto's policies, were worth listening to. But the ace pitcher of the main opposition party refused to take the mound. Under such circumstances, how can Minshuto expect the mood for a change in government to spread among the public?



Ozawa is eager to travel across the nation to support would-be candidates preparing for a Lower House election. It is hard to understand why the same man is so reluctant to appear on center stage to take part in Diet debates.


If Minshuto wins the next Lower House election and Ozawa becomes prime minister, can he really handle questions in the Diet and lead diplomatic negotiations?


In order to create and implement policies, political leaders today are required to show strong initiative to get their messages across.


We also object to Minshuto's decision to have Makiko Tanaka as its second representative to ask questions.


Although Tanaka belongs to a Minshuto parliamentary group, she is an independent and is not exactly the party's "poster girl" to deliver its messages.


When former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi appointed Tanaka as foreign minister and threw foreign policy into confusion, Minshuto said Koizumi had made the appointment merely because she was popular with the public. This time, it appears Minshuto is making the same mistake.


We also do not understand why Minshuto is late in putting together its new manifesto, which will serve a major role in helping voters make their choice in the election.


As a result of the economic crisis, tax revenues have dropped sharply and pump-priming fiscal spending is going up. It is clear that Minshuto needs to drastically change the manifesto it released for the 2007 Upper House election.


Approval ratings for Minshuto and Ozawa are rising in public opinion polls. But their popularity owes much to shortcomings on the side of the Aso-led LDP.


Unless Ozawa squarely faces Aso to initiate a policy debate, his voice calling for an "early Lower House dissolution" from the bleachers, will ring hollow.



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