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2013年6月27日 (木)

民主参院選公約 この政策では説得力に欠ける

The Yomiuri Shimbun June 27, 2013
DPJ manifesto for upper house election campaign far too vague
民主参院選公約 この政策では説得力に欠ける(6月26日付・読売社説)

The policy goals in the Democratic Party of Japan’s new electoral campaign pledges seem to be too passive. The new manifesto’s policy measures are just too abstract. This is because the opposition party lacks self-confidence in advancing specific policies after learning a bitter lesson from its failure to achieve unrealistic numerical targets in the past.

On Tuesday, the DPJ unveiled its manifesto for the upcoming House of Councillors election, professing that it would “help people protect their livelihood.” The election pledges cite seven priority areas, including economic well-being and social security. They also emphasize the party’s determination to support women, extend child-rearing assistance and provide better education programs.

In presenting the opposition party’s economic policy, the new manifesto took a moderate approach in criticizing the economic management of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration. It only expressed concern about the adverse effects of Abenomics, saying Abe’s policy package will increase prices and cause violent fluctuations in interest rates, for instance. The election pledge contrasts with the party’s draft of a new manifesto, which was strongly critical about the harmful effects of Abe’s economic policy. This indicates the opposition party has become ambiguous about where its economic policy differs from the Abenomics package.

Meaningful debates unlikely

The lack of specifics in the DPJ manifesto is also evident in the party’s own measures for the most essential part of political management--tax, fiscal and financial policies, and growth strategy. The election pledge incorporates few specific plans that rival those advanced by the Abe government. Therefore, the DPJ cannot be expected to hold meaningful debates with the government over economic, fiscal and other crucial issues.

With respect to nuclear power generation, the new manifesto remains unchanged from the party’s policy pledge for the 2012 House of Representatives election. It states that measures must be taken to ensure no nuclear power plant is in operation “by the end of the 2030s.” However, the DPJ manifesto does not include a road map to achieve that target or measures to secure alternative energy sources.

This is also true with regard to the party’s social security policy. The manifesto’s social security plan is much the same as the party’s current programs, which are designed to create a system by which citizens would be paid minimum guaranteed pension benefits, with the cost covered entirely by taxpayers’ money. This would be combined with a plan to integrate all public pension plans.

In its policy pledges for the 2009 lower house election, the DPJ said its minimum guaranteed pension scheme would pay “70,000 yen per person monthly.” However, the party’s 2012 manifesto did not give a figure, after its target was found to be unattainable. The new manifesto does not mention an amount, either.

Admittedly, the DPJ has reason to omit impractical numerical goals from its election pledge. Still, the opposition party must realize it will never be able to regain its public trust if it only showcases a set of abstract policy measures.

The DPJ must give serious thought to why it was unable to deliver on its earlier promises, a task that must be complemented by efforts to change its policy measures into practical ones that the public can relate to. The party must overcome these hurdles before holding policy debates with the ruling parties. If it fails to do so, the DPJ will find it difficult to use the upper house election as an opportunity to improve its situation and squarely confront the ruling camp.

The new manifesto is reasonable in regard to foreign and defense issues. It emphasizes the DPJ’s determination to steadfastly defend this nation’s territorial integrity by taking advantage of its alliance with the United States as the basis of its foreign policy. Nevertheless, the DPJ’s election pledge appears to be less specific about what actually must be done. It contains fewer explanations than a similar document prepared by the Liberal Democratic Party on how to deepen the bilateral alliance and protect the country’s territory.

Status quo on Constitution

Another important matter addressed by the manifesto is a proposal to revise Article 96 of the Constitution ahead of an attempt to change other provisions in the supreme law. The article in question requires the approval of two-thirds or more of legislators in both chambers of the Diet for initiating amendments to the Constitution.
However, the DPJ manifesto opposes the proposal, saying the two-thirds majority rule is reasonable. It also insists on “conceiving a future-oriented Constitution” by promoting “dialogue with the public” on the nation’s top law.

This shows that the DPJ remains unchanged in trying to deal with a conflict of opinions among party members by producing vaguely worded documents acceptable to rival groups. This is also noticeable in the language used in the new manifesto regarding the Article 96 issue. The election pledge has been phrased in a manner that offends neither pro-amendment party members nor those cautious or negative about such reform.

The DPJ lags other parties in addressing constitutional reform. Other parties have already disclosed their versions of how the Constitution should be amended.

Indications are that, after the upper house election, the controversy over constitutional reform will become a major bone of contention in political circles. The DPJ should expedite an internal consensus about constitutional change, with a view to putting together its own draft of a new constitution.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 26, 2013)
(2013年6月26日01時15分  読売新聞)


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