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2014年9月18日 (木)

民主党役員交代 バラバラ感を解消できるか

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Can DPJ achieve unity at last under its new executive lineup?
民主党役員交代 バラバラ感を解消できるか

A lack of unity has been the Achilles’ heel of the Democratic Party of Japan ever since its foundation. The main opposition party has recently reshuffled its executive team, but questions remain on whether the new lineup can overcome the party’s longtime weakness.

On Tuesday, the DPJ picked former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano as secretary general, and appointed former Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada as acting president in charge of national Diet elections. “We will unite ourselves as one and face off against the politics of the Liberal Democratic Party,” DPJ President Banri Kaieda said at a general meeting of party members of both houses.

Both Edano and Okada held key posts in the past DPJ-led government, but they are also among six key party figures who distanced themselves from Kaieda and other top executives after the DPJ’s crushing defeat in the 2012 House of Representatives election.

Appointed as chairman of the Policy Research Committee was House of Councillors member Tetsuro Fukuyama, a policy expert with experience as deputy chief cabinet secretary. For the Diet Affairs Committee chairman post, Kaieda picked former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Tatsuo Kawabata, a long-serving lawmaker who entered the political world from a labor union.

The lineup shows Kaieda’s intention to endorse party heavyweights in consideration of the power balance between party groups, an effort apparently aimed at creating monolithic unity.

However, it is still too early to conclude that the DPJ has succeeded in building a united front with the reshuffle.

The trio of Kaieda, Edano and Fukuyama were officials in charge of dealing with the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant under the administration of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan. The memories of the administration receiving public criticism for its handling of the crisis are still fresh in our minds.

Smoldering discontent

Dissatisfaction with Kaieda is smoldering within the party, as the leader lacks the ability to make the party appealing to the public, and has been unable to lift the DPJ out of its slump.

During the ordinary Diet session earlier this year, moves to dethrone Kaieda surfaced, with the party’s conservatives as the core instigators. They insisted that the party was unlikely to perform well in next spring’s unified local elections under his leadership. The party approved Kaieda remaining at the top at a July 31 meeting of DPJ members of both Diet houses, but the party is still far from becoming one.

What the DPJ needs most as the top opposition party is to achieve consensus on key policies.

For example, the party has put off efforts to reach an agreement on whether to allow Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense.

As the chairman of the party’s Research Commission on the Constitution, Edano has devoted himself to having his party issue an official opinion on the matter, helping the party conclude in February this year that it is unacceptable to revise the constitutional interpretation to allow Japan general exercise of the right of collective self-defense. However, the party is yet to decide its policy on whether a limited exercise of the right should be allowed.

In August, Kaieda took the bold step of stating his own opinion, opposing even a limited exercise of the collective self-defense right. However, his remarks drew criticism from the conservative camp within the party. Former DPJ President Seiji Maehara and other conservatives have been asking the government to establish a basic law on national security which allows Japan limited exercise of the right of collective self-defense.

If Kaieda and other top executives hoist their liberal colors higher, it will likely widen the rift between them and conservative members. We also need to point out that the party’s efforts to review its manifesto from the 2009 lower house election, which overflowed with lavish spending policies, are still only half-finished.

It is essential for the DPJ to come up with a concrete stance on key policy issues, such as national security, as soon as possible to regain public trust.

Another task for the DPJ is to build cooperation with other opposition parties, in Diet affairs and key elections. Kaieda has recently referred to the idea of forming a joint Diet group with other opposition parties. However, even within his own party, the majority of members doubt the possibility that the idea could be realized. It is sad to point out that Kaieda’s strategy for dealing with the LDP’s dominance is still unclear.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 17, 2014)Speech


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