LDP must reject complacency, focus on correcting party’s internal flaws

A lack of discipline regarding issues of money and politics can be said to have caused painful defeats. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party must avoid complacency and manage its administration of the government with sincerity.

The LDP was thoroughly defeated in a House of Representatives election and two House of Councillors elections — the LDP did not even field a candidate in one of the races — the first national polls since the inauguration of the administration led by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. This is a serious blow to Suga.

The prime minister said, “We will humbly accept the people’s judgment and firmly correct the points that need to be corrected.”

The term of office for lower house lawmakers will expire in just six months. The prime minister is at a critical juncture as to whether he will be able to prepare to implement policies aimed at the next lower house election.

There is growing discontent with the government’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Vaccinations, which are the key to infection control, have been delayed, and no effective measures also have been devised to deal with the shortage of hospital beds for coronavirus patients.

The prime minister needs to come to the fore and display leadership in securing hospital beds and taking thorough measures to prevent infections.

A newcomer backed by opposition parties including the largest one, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, won the upper house do-over election in the Hiroshima prefectural constituency. The LDP was at a disadvantage in the election because it came after the invalidation of the 2019 victory by Anri Kawai, who was later found guilty in a large-scale vote-buying scandal connected to the 2019 poll.

The party appears to have underestimated the impact of that scandal, which was one reason why the backlash against the LDP was stronger than expected.

Anri Kawai’s husband, former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai, gave out cash to 100 local assembly members and others. The LDP provided a large amount of money to Anri Kawai’s side, but the circumstances and reasons for this remain unclear.

It is extremely regrettable that the LDP could not cleanse itself as a political party. Amid the slumping approval ratings of opposition parties, couldn’t it be that the LDP is fully content with the current political structure in which it is the “predominant force”? It is urgent for the LDP to take eligible voters’ harsh criticism seriously and try to regain public trust.

At the same time, the opposition parties who won the three elections are still facing the challenge of how to form a united front for elections.

In the upper house by-election in the Nagano prefectural constituency, which was held following the death of former Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Yuichiro Hata, who belonged to the CDPJ, his younger brother Jiro Hata was elected for the first time, due to a successful coalition with the Japanese Communist Party, the Democratic Party for the People and the Social Democratic Party.

However, there were notable conflicts among the opposition parties. One stemmed from the fact that the DPFP opposed a policy agreement between Jiro Hata and the JCP prefectural chapter that included “the rectification of Japan’s foreign policies that attach too much importance to the Japan-U.S. alliance,” and temporarily withdrew its recommendation for Jiro Hata in the election.

The JCP has proposed the establishment of a coalition government. If the opposition parties are to work together in a lower house election, in which voters choose which party is most fit to govern, it is important for them to coordinate their basic policies on such matters as security and energy.

Opposition parties need to once again be aware that an unprincipled alliance of convenience would betray voters’ expectations.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on April 27, 2021.