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2014年12月15日 (月)

きょう投票 日本の将来創る確かな1票に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Diet members need vision, insight on issues both at home and abroad
きょう投票 日本の将来創る確かな1票に


When it comes to ensuring Japan’s future prospects as a peaceful, thriving country, which political parties and candidates can be said to have come up with realistic, appropriate solutions and shown the ability to achieve them? Every voter must be thoroughly scrupulous in rendering a judgment on this issue as they exercise the invaluable right to vote.

Today, Sunday, is the polling date for the 47th House of Representatives general election.

Can the nation exit the long tunnel of deflation to put its economy on a growth track? What can be done to overcome the challenges of a rapidly shrinking population and the declining strength of regional communities? What steps can be taken to deal with the security environment surrounding this country, which has seen an alarming deterioration?

This is an election of great importance. The trustworthiness of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, which has addressed a mountain of problems at home and abroad for the past two years, is at stake.

Trust in Abe govt the focus

It is unusual for the lower chamber to be dissolved for a snap general election two years before its members’ term of office has expired. However, the prime minister’s seeking of a public mandate afresh through the lower house contest may be instrumental in boosting his administration’s momentum so that it can carry through with its policy tasks.

The biggest focal point in the race is whether the Liberal Democratic Party will maintain its overwhelming dominance in the powerful chamber, or if there will be a shift from the preelection political landscape — in which the LDP has been the sole predominant force in the legislature.

The past three lower house elections saw landslide victories by the LDP and then the Democratic Party of Japan, followed by the LDP again. Two successive changes of power took place through the three electoral battles. But this time, the circumstances are substantially different.

Due to delays in the DPJ’s preparations for the election campaign, the number of candidates on the party’s ticket has fallen short of a majority in the 475-seat lower house.

The major opposition party is at a crossroads in terms of whether it can recoup enough lost ground from its devastating defeat in the 2012 poll to gain a foothold for retaking the helm of government in the future.

The so-called third-pole parties, which made remarkable headway in the previous lower house contest, have since undergone rounds of alliance formation and rupture that have resulted in the disbanding of Your Party.

Will two opposition parties — the Japan Innovation Party and the Party for Future Generations — ultimately be formidable enough to represent the non-LDP and non-DPJ voter segments through this lower house election?

The yardstick for judgments at the polls lies in how voters rate Abe’s leadership of the government.

In the past two years, the Abenomics package of economic policies has pushed up stock prices and improved the employment situation. The nation’s economy, however, has continued to log negative growth due to such factors as a consumption tax rate hike from 5 percent to 8 percent in April.

Stressing the need to push ahead with Abenomics, the prime minister declared in his campaign, “Nothing good can come out of the country going back to dark periods of chaos, such as when the DPJ was in power.”

For his part, DPJ leader Banri Kaieda has underscored a need to change key policies by highlighting problems with the Abe administration, including the widening economic disparities within society. The DPJ has placed great emphasis on “investment in people,” such as increasing government assistance for child rearing.

Meanwhile, the JIP has been arguing for the need to beef up growth strategies through such means as deregulatory reform.

There are also divergent views among political parties on how to deal with issues related to the consumption tax hike.

Breakdown of issues

The ruling parties have decided on a policy to postpone the consumption tax hike to 10 percent, originally scheduled for October 2015, for 1½ years. The DPJ and the JIP both approve of the postponement, but have not indicated when the tax should be raised again. The Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party have called for the tax hike plan to be revoked and repealed.

A steady supply of electricity is also essential to economic revitalization.

The LDP has presented a policy to utilize nuclear power plants whose safety has been confirmed. The policy stipulates that renewable energy will be introduced to reduce dependence on nuclear energy.

The DPJ has called for the reduction of the nation’s nuclear power generation to zero in the 2030s, while the JIP has argued for ending reliance on nuclear energy.

We hope voters will closely examine which parties have expressed responsible, forward-looking views on the coexistence of economic growth and fiscal rehabilitation, along with well-balanced energy policies.

Security has also been a point of contention in the election.

The intrusion of Chinese government vessels into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands has become a frequent occurrence. The first Japan-China summit meeting in about three years was realized in November, though the Japanese government has remained on alert in the waters. The nuclear threat from North Korea has not changed.

Aiming to heighten deterrence by strengthening the Japan-U.S. alliance and international cooperation, the Abe administration approved in July a new government interpretation of the Constitution that allows the nation to exercise the right of collective self-defense in limited situations.

The LDP has presented a policy to promptly prepare a security-related legal framework on the basis of the government’s new interpretation. The DPJ and others have called for a repeal of the Cabinet decision on the collective self-defense right.

It is important to establish a system that enables the nation to envision various possible situations and execute seamless security responses in peacetime. It is regrettable that each party did not deepen discussions on the subject by providing appropriate concrete examples.

Urgency in critical times

The state of the world at large, which offers no cause for optimism, has remained unpredictable.

China’s military buildup and other factors have destabilized East Asia. In the Middle East, the extremist militant group Islamic State has expanded its forces, and the situation in Ukraine has yet to emerge from chaos.

In Japan, where a low birthrate and the aging population are serious concerns, there is an increasing number of issues where interests must be coordinated through the political leadership so that they are not passed down to subsequent generations.

What is now required of Diet members is a high level of vision and insight into trends in Japan and abroad, as well as problem-solving abilities. It is also the responsibility of eligible voters to choose talent that can meet such requirements.

It is feared that the voting rate will fall even lower in this election.

Public indifference toward electoral politics will not cause any anxiety for political parties and politicians. We hope as many people as possible will exercise their right to vote.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 14, 2014)Speech


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« 再生医療 安全性の確保が普及の前提だ | トップページ | 世界で160万人のユーザーを誇る通話アプリ »