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2009年11月20日 (金)


--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 19(IHT/Asahi: November 20,2009)
EDITORIAL: One-on-one Diet debate.

Since it took power in mid-September, the administration led by Yukio Hatoyama has been busy re-examining the policies implemented by the former coalition government before it starts work on compiling the fiscal 2010 budget.

The new government totally reviewed the supplementary budget put together by Taro Aso's team, called a halt to the construction of the Yanba Dam in Gunma Prefecture and instructed the Government Revitalization Unit to scrutinize projects included in budget requests for the next fiscal year. The government is also studying whether the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture can be relocated elsewhere. This amounts to a total re-examination of the plan previously agreed to by Tokyo and Washington.

Why is the administration drastically changing policies? How does it plan to realize them? Hatoyama has a duty to provide a satisfactory explanation.

How will Sadakazu Tanigaki, president of the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, respond? How does he evaluate his party's past policies? What is the LDP's new course? Now, more than ever, voters are eager to hear a heated verbal battle between the two leaders.

However, it now appears doubtful that the two leaders will hold a one-on-one debate during the current Diet session. Initially, the ruling and opposition parties had aimed to do so on Wednesday, but on Nov. 13 the government and the Democratic Party of Japan squelched the idea.

The government says it put the damper on the idea because some members of the Cabinet would not be able to attend it due to official business. True, there is a general understanding between the ruling and opposition parties that requires the attendance of all Cabinet ministers at such a debate, but the explanation offered is a little hard to swallow.

Why must all Cabinet ministers be present when it is the party leaders who are going head to head? The government and the DPJ cannot avoid criticism that they used the agreement as an excuse to avoid the debate.

In principle, debates between the party leaders are held on a Wednesday. In that case, the next chance would be Nov. 25, but the DPJ-led government has not yet responded to the LDP's request to hold one on that day. Does the government seriously think there is no need to hold a debate before the Diet session winds up on Nov. 30?

Even if some Cabinet ministers are absent, it shouldn't pose a problem. Surely, the debate doesn't have to be held on a Wednesday, either. When it was in opposition, the DPJ persistently demanded that a one-on-one debate be held. But now that it is a ruling party, it has made an about-face.

We find the party's stance anything but convincing. We urge the government and the DPJ to arrange a one-on-one debate without delay.

The government wants to avoid extending the Diet session so it can concentrate on compiling the budget. It says there is no time for the debate since its priority is to pass various bills. But this explanation doesn't hold water, for the simple reason that such debates customarily last only 45 minutes.

Is it because Hatoyama doesn't want to face opposition questioning about his political donation scandal and discord within the government? The more he puts off the debate, the more he must be prepared to be exposed to such criticism.

In his policy speech, the prime minister called on fellow Diet members: "Let us exchange in hearty debate here at the Diet ...truly for the people to the utmost extent of our ability."

If the debate is not held during this Diet session, the next opportunity will only arise next year. The lackadaisical attitude shown by this administration is pathetic given that it achieved a historic regime change.


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