LDP candidates must use debates to restore people’s peace of mind

REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks in front of graphs showing Japan’s inoculation rate with COVID-19 vaccine comparing with other countries, during his news conference at his office in Tokyo, Japan, September 9, 2021.

How can people’s peace of mind be restored on issues that directly affect their daily lives, such as healthcare and the economy? The candidates in the Liberal Democratic Party presidential election should be aware of the weight of their responsibility and talk about realistic policies.

The LDP is holding online policy debates for the presidential election over four consecutive days. The online debates are an attempt to replace canceled regional campaign trips.

The format of the debates enables members of the public and rank-and-file party members to directly ask questions on a variety of topics, including novel coronavirus measures, the economy, diplomacy and the Constitution. The candidates must listen to a wide range of opinions and make use of them in their policies.

Regarding coronavirus measures, LDP Executive Acting Secretary General Seiko Noda said, “I will make sure that early detection and early treatment are carried out,” and called for the establishment of temporary hospitals. Former Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi said, “I will focus on efforts to minimize the number of serious cases and deaths.”

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has also been working to expand coronavirus testing and secure hospital beds, but was unable to respond to the rapid increase in cases due to a lack of coordination with prefectures and medical institutions. In preparation for another surge, it is important to take effective measures such as reviewing the system and its operation as soon as possible.

Taro Kono, the administrative and regulatory reform minister, has indicated his intention to mass-produce and utilize antigen test kits, and former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Fumio Kishida has raised the active use of digital vaccination certificates.

As vaccination progresses, the role of the next prime minister will be to chart a course to normalize economic and social activities. He or she must present a clear road map on how to restore daily life, and proceed with the public’s understanding.

Regarding the establishment of legislation to enable a lockdown, Takaichi argued that the ruling and opposition parties should work together as soon as possible to prepare for such legislation because of such factors as the possible emergence of new variants. Kono also said, “We need to diligently consider legislative revisions as a precaution.”

Kishida argued that regulations that carry penalties, such as those in Europe and the United States, are not suitable for Japan. “I would like to think about law changes that would lead to a reduction in the number of people moving around.”

Without clarifying conditions regarding the infection situation and countermeasures, discussing the issue with an attitude that there must be legislation first is questionable. The government must carefully and calmly consider whether such legislation is an appropriate measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections.

Regarding the pension system, it is not surprising that the other three candidates objected to Kono’s proposal to establish a minimum guaranteed pension funded by taxes. In the past, the Democratic Party of Japan proposed the idea of a minimum guaranteed pension, but it was abandoned because it would require a huge amount of financial resources.

A pension system that supports the elderly must be designed with precision based on the balance between benefits and burdens. The candidates have to carefully discuss the issue to avoid stirring up public anxiety and unfounded expectations.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Sept. 25, 2021.