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2009年9月 2日 (水)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 1(IHT/Asahi: September 2,2009)
EDITORIAL: Recreating the LDP

Sunday's Lower House election, much like an Othello board game, dramatically reversed the fortunes of the Liberal Democratic Party.
But the LDP overnight was rendered an opposition party, with less than one-quarter of the Lower House seats.
The LDP, together with its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, had controlled more than two-thirds of the Lower House seats and repeatedly passed bills rejected by the opposition-dominated Upper House.

The cause of its defeat was obvious. Prime Minister Taro Aso himself admitted, "We were unable to wipe away the public's long-held dissatisfaction with our party."

The LDP was effectively the nation's only party in power throughout the Cold War era.

The party redistributed the fruits of economic growth to rural regions in the forms of public works projects and subsidies.
It perfected what may be called "the LDP system," under which the political, bureaucratic and business communities all benefited.

But once the Cold War and the years of economic growth ended, the party could no longer conceal dysfunctions in the system.

Although the LDP tried a different tack with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's market-oriented reforms, this resulted in wider social disparities and ironically led to the destruction of its traditional, rural support base.

The LDP consists of a broad spectrum of members, from conservatives to liberals. Its identity rested solely on the fact that it was the party in power.

Now that its power has been snatched away, a sense of lost identity pervades the shell-shocked party.

In deciding which direction it needs to go, we suggest the LDP draw lessons from the rival Democratic Party of Japan's experiences.

The DPJ's history since its establishment in 1996 has been replete with defeats and disappointments.

First, a party leader was found to have failed to pay pension premiums. In the 2005 Lower House election, the party suffered an unexpected disastrous setback. The party was then rocked by a fake e-mail scandal.

Each time, the party's leader was forced to resign. But the DPJ ranks remained united and held fast to its policy principles until the public finally trusted the party enough to let it run the government.

What the LDP needs to do is to humbly admit that it had become arrogant from being in power for too many years, choose a president who will heed the voice of the people, and recover public trust by repackaging its image and policies.

Although diminished in strength, the LDP can still boast having ruled the country for more than half a century. It should draw upon its experiences when it challenges the policies of the new administration and offer viable alternatives.

The DPJ has promised allowances to families with children and toll-free highways.
But are these "signature programs" really in the nation's interest? Won't the party be hurting some people in funding these programs?

If the LDP were to point these things out, the DPJ would not be able to ignore its opinions.

A sense of urgency and competition, created by the awareness that a change of government can take place, should compel each party to refine its policies.

But whether this type of politics will take root in Japan will depend on the LDP's caliber as the opposition party.

The LDP plans to select its new president after the new prime minister has been named.

The party can no longer afford to use its inane strategy of choosing a leader because he or she will be suitable as the party's "poster boy (or girl)" at election time.

Where does the LDP want to go from now? We hope party members will thoroughly discuss their future and determine the party's new identity.


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