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2009年5月18日 (月)

社説:鳩山民主新代表 政権獲得へ骨太な「芯」を

(Mainichi Japan) May 17, 2009
Eyes fixed on Hatoyama's ability to implement his own election pledges
社説:鳩山民主新代表 政権獲得へ骨太な「芯」を

Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Secretary-General Yukio Hatoyama has become the new leader of the largest opposition party by beating opponent Katsuya Okada in the party's leadership election to replace Ichiro Ozawa.

Hatoyama again assumed the top post of the party that he left more than six years ago, and is set to compete with Prime Minister Taro Aso for the top government position in the House of Representatives general election that will called within four months.

Following his victory, Hatoyama called for the party to go on the offensive in a unified bid to take over the reins of government under the slogan "Clean up Japan." However, his hasty election as party leader with the backing of his predecessor Ozawa has given the public the impression that he was elevated to the post in a closed process.

The upcoming Lower House race to choose the next prime minister will be a competition of party leaders' abilities. The DPJ will lose support from voters if it reveals a dual power structure in which Hatoyama leads the party under the clout of Ozawa. Hatoyama must demonstrate his ability as party leader by working out the party's manifesto himself.

Ozawa was instrumental in sweeping Hatoyama to party leadership. Hatoyama beat deputy leader Okada, who opinion polls showed had garnered wider support from the public, by a margin of nearly 30 votes. This demonstrated that he was backed by major intraparty groups, including one led by Ozawa and his own group. Ozawa will thus maintain his influence on party management.

Ozawa's resignation was an opportunity for the DPJ, which had been on the defensive following a political donation scandal involving Ozawa's top aide, to start over. However, the race ended up being an inward-looking struggle between pro- and anti-Ozawa members.

Ozawa was forced to resign even though he had once declared that he would stay on, because the public rejected his old-fashioned approach which raised questions over politics and money. He stepped down without taking responsibility for the indictment of his state-paid secretary over the political donation scandal. If he continues to assume control over the party, it would be viewed as the revival of a dual structure of power in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in which he wielded influence on the ruling party as secretary-general. Whether Hatoyama can appoint top party officials at his own discretion, with or without Ozawa, and repair the crack that has developed within the party will be tested.

The important thing is his ability to demonstrate a new style of politics that he is aiming to build up through a manifesto. His slogan, "politics full of love," is abstract. When his call for love in politics was ridiculed during a debate as being like "soft serve ice cream" that easily melts, he countered by saying it was like an "ice lolly" that has a solid stick in the center. However, his appeal to the public still lacks in drive. In particular, it is doubtful whether he can convince the public that enough funds can be secured to cover social security programs while closing off discussions on a consumption-tax hike. The pledge he made during the leadership election to break down politics dominated by bureaucrats has not been accompanied by specific ways to achieve this goal.

Since the DPJ has elected its new leader, the focus will shift to when Prime Minister Aso will dissolve the Lower House for a snap general election. The ruling coalition is criticizing what it calls a dual power structure in which Hatoyama manages the party under the influence of Ozawa. However, the Aso administration remains unpopular with the public as opinion polls show that the approval rating for his Cabinet is less than 30 percent.

It is true that potential issues during the upcoming general election came to the fore though discussions during the DPJ leadership race. The LDP must also demonstrate its own manifesto to the public at an early date.

毎日新聞 2009年5月17日 東京朝刊


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