LDP candidates should debate policies based on national vision

The Liberal Democratic Party presidential election will decide who will steer Japan. The candidates should be aware of the importance of this aspect and should engage in the election battle by showing their policies and views to the public.

Official campaigning for the LDP’s presidential election began as four LDP members filed their official candidacies. The four are Taro Kono, minister in charge of administrative and regulatory reform; former LDP Policy Research Council Chairperson Fumio Kishida; former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi and LDP Executive Acting Secretary General Seiko Noda.

The new president will be elected on Sept. 29 and will be named prime minister at an extraordinary Diet session to be convened on Oct. 4.

Due to the prolonged novel coronavirus pandemic, Japan’s society and economy are feeling entrapped, and the international situation is drastically changing due to the confrontation between the United States and China.

It is essential for the new leader to have policies based on a firm national vision and the ability to explain things to gain the public’s understanding. The candidates must explicitly declare their beliefs, and the LDP Diet members and others who will elect the president will have to carefully examine them.

The election has seen a rare development in that six of the party’s seven factions — all but the faction led by Kishida — have decided not to support any one candidate as a whole faction.

In the past, faction members united to fight for the presidency and faction leaders held a tight grip on members with the distribution of funds and posts, but in this election the situation is different in that it may be difficult to identify a strong preordained “winner.”

This is also due to the fact that an electoral system centered on House of Representatives single-seat constituency races has taken root, and there is an increasing tendency for candidates in Diet and other elections to rely on the popularity of party leaders. It is commendable that faction’s constraints on members have been weakened, making it easier to engage in policy debates. The views of each and every lawmaker will be further scrutinized.

In the LDP presidential election, a total of 766 votes will be contested, equally divided into 383 votes from its lawmakers and 383 votes based on ballots cast by rank-and-file members and members of specific support groups. Since the Diet members’ votes are expected to be scattered among candidates, the trend in the non-lawmaker votes is attracting attention. There is a possibility that no one will win a majority of the votes on the first ballot, forcing a runoff between the top two vote earners.

LDP members, overly concerned about the upcoming lower house election, should not judge who should become the new president based solely on whether the new leader can represent the party in a way that leads its lower house election candidates to victory.

The administration of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe lasted nearly eight years, and the following administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga inherited basic policies from the Abe administration. Candidates for the LDP presidency need to present a major direction on policies that relate to the country’s fundamentals, such as the Constitution, the economy, diplomacy and security, and deepen discussions on such policies.

Kishida has expressed his intention to strengthen the distribution of benefits to the middle class, while Takaichi has emphasized the continuation of Abenomics economic policies. Kono’s policies center on promoting investment in the digital and decarbonization sectors while Noda is calling for measures that emphasize women, children, the elderly and the disabled.

The policies of the new LDP president will become the party’s campaign pledges in the lower house election. Specific details and financial resources to back them must be clearly presented.

Junior LDP lawmakers from across the factions are advocating decisive reform of the party, including transparency in the political process. It has been pointed out that the LDP has become arrogant and offers insufficient policy explanations to the public because there are no other parties that can rival the LDP. How to proceed with party reform is also an important point of contention.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sept. 18, 2021.