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2009年9月29日 (火)

社説:自民党新総裁 谷垣さんもチェンジを

(Mainichi Japan) September 29, 2009
New LDP leader Tanigaki faces tough task to rebuild, reform party
社説:自民党新総裁 谷垣さんもチェンジを

A tough road lies ahead for new Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) President Sadakazu Tanigaki. Elected on Monday to head the LDP, which suffered a crushing defeat in the Lower House election, the former finance minister faces the challenge of rebuilding the party under unprecedented adversity, with its very raison d'etre brought into question.

If Tanigaki -- the innocuous and model student type -- thinks he can take back the reins of government with the LDP mostly unchanged, he's dreaming. The fact that the party was unable to gather two-thirds of regional votes is evidence of the public's doubts toward the LDP's approach to party reform. The LDP must review the policies it has had since its ruling-party era, and strive to establish itself as an effective opposition to the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).

Even though the LDP leadership election had the party's rebirth on the line, it sank into oblivion as the new government of Prime Minster Yukio Hatoyama gathered attention. Although this could be partially attributed to the LDP's fate as an opposition party, more importantly, it was because the party had not adequately engaged in any analysis of its defeat. Many mid-ranking party members refused to run for party president, and the three candidates who did run failed to attract the public's interest. The lack of enthusiasm for the election, even among regional party organizations, is a sign that the party's future is at risk.

Ultimately, what the arguments put forth by the three candidates -- Tanigaki, Former Senior Vice Justice Minister Taro Kono and former Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura -- revealed was that the party remains divided on the cause of its general election defeat. While Tanigaki pushed for a review of structural reforms led by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Kono proposed further reforms, calling for a break from factional politics and the transfer of power to a new generation of party members. Tanigaki's support from legislators and regional voters and his resulting victory reflected the strong negativity harbored by party members toward Koizumi-era reforms.

Still, one cannot help but feel uneasy about what lies ahead for the party and its new party leader. First of all, there is the challenge of building a relationship of effective opposition with the DPJ. Tanigaki has argued for a review of "small government" policy, but criticizes the new government's policies as mere handouts. Without a detailed discussion on what the LDP wants to change and what it wants to keep the same -- including the issue of consumption tax -- it won't be able to compose anything more than a vague manifesto.

Some say that the policies put forth by Tanigaki, considered a liberal, are hard to differentiate from those of Hatoyama. In Diet sessions and other forums, it will be important that he clearly illustrates the differences between LDP and DPJ policies while cooperating when appropriate.

It is questionable how far Tanigaki will go in terms of party reform. His greatest supporters in the presidential election were those who are favorable toward party factions and are not receptive to rapid change, including the generational transfer of power.

Tanigaki's slogan of "let's do it together" as a call to build a united front could also prove to be a pitfall to reform. If the new party head curries favor with party factions and senior party members, the public will give up on him early. He will have to be bold in selecting candidates for next summer's Upper House election, and refuse to act on precedent.

Although the latest LDP presidential election was lacking in pizzazz, the fact that the party refrained from putting on a mere popularity contest by rounding up high-profile candidates is a sign of progress. On the other hand, a mild-mannered party president lacking in leadership skills will not be able to weather the storm that is approaching.

Tanigaki, too, must change if he is to succeed.

毎日新聞 2009年9月29日 0時07分


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