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2009年8月24日 (月)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 22(IHT/Asahi: August 24,2009)
EDITORIAL: Election polls point to a DPJ landslide

The findings of a recent Asahi Shimbun survey about the Aug. 30 Lower House election were stunning, although there is still much uncertainty about how things will turn out.

The poll indicated that the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan was on track to win more than 300 of the chamber's 480 seats in the early stage of the race, while the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is likely to see their strength reduced drastically to less than 150.

The Yomiuri Shimbun and the Nikkei reported similar poll results.

There is apparently a groundswell of public opinion favoring a change of government that is as huge as the one that gave nearly 300 seats to the LDP in the 2005 Lower House election, which centered on the issue of postal privatization.

The voting public is also showing strong interest in the upcoming election. The Asahi survey found 54 percent of the respondents taking a great interest in the election, the same as the figure four years ago.

But the seemingly clear picture of fervent popular support for the DPJ is actually not as simple as it looks.

Only 24 percent of those polled anticipated that a power transfer would move Japanese politics in a good direction, compared with 56 percent who expected no change.

The public is apprehensive about the possibility of the DPJ coming to power. Still, people are inclined to vote for the opposition party because of the great distrust they have in the LDP.

In other words, many voters are not putting unconditional hope in the DPJ's ascent to power.

What the DPJ should take seriously is the fact that large numbers of voters are taking a dim view of the party's key policy proposals.

In the survey, 55 percent of the respondents said they did not back the DPJ's proposal to create a new child support program. The party's promise to scrap tolls for highways was even more unpopular, with 67 percent cool to the proposal.

An overwhelming 83 percent expressed concern about whether the party would be able to raise the funds needed to finance these and other election pledges.

The LDP's campaign platform received no higher marks from the public.

A significant 66 percent said they didn't back the ruling party's promise to increase household take-home income by 1 million yen in 10 years. Concern about the financing of the LDP's policy proposals was voiced by 83 percent of the pollees, the same number as that for the DPJ.

Both parties clearly need to explain how they intend to pay for their programs. Otherwise, voters will find it hard to embrace their election promises, no matter how good they sound.

Six years since the manifesto-based approach to election campaigns was introduced into national elections, Japanese voters now scrutinize the parties' policy platforms far more rigorously than before.

It is distressing to see Prime Minister Taro Aso and other LDP heavyweights focusing more on criticizing the DPJ with increasingly tough rhetoric than on selling their policy messages.

Despite being given an overwhelming majority in the Lower House four years ago, the LDP has ended up leaving the nation in the current political impasse. The party should tell the public how it thinks this situation has come about and what it will do to change it.

The LDP is acting in a way that doesn't befit a ruling party by devoting itself to attacking the opposition party without offering clear explanations about these questions.

It is notable how many people are willingly taking party manifestoes from campaigners at street speeches and on other occasions.

But many voters read these manifestoes while asking whether the policies described in them are plausible and whether the parties really have the ability and determination to push through these proposals. They are trying to figure out how much faith they can place in the parties, whatever their manifestoes may say.

Just a week is left until election day. We hope the stretch run will produce some meaningful policy debate that is more reassuring to voters longing to see change in politics.


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