EDITORIAL / Keep thorny issues in mind when deciding vote in lower house election

Japan faces a mountain of difficult issues in domestic matters and foreign affairs. Which political party and which candidate will be entrusted with steering the course of Japan? Votes should be cast after carefully examining the policies and qualifications of the parties and candidates.

The 49th election for the House of Representatives is being held on Sunday. The first election in four years to choose who will run the government came swiftly, less than a month after the administration of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was established.

The main focus of the election is whether the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito will receive voters’ confidence or whether the government will be entrusted to opposition parties, some of which have formed a united front.

The LDP has sustained its momentum by winning six consecutive national elections under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Prime Minister Kishida has defined victory as maintaining the ruling parties’ majority of at least 233 seats in the lower house.

Another key issue is whether the LDP will secure a single-party majority. Since Kishida’s base in his party cannot be described as strong, the outcome of the election will affect whether the prime minister can run the administration his own way.

As for the opposition bloc, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan has fielded unified candidates with such parties as the Japanese Communist Party in many constituencies, calling for a change of government.

Since the 2012 lower house election, the LDP has faced many weak opposition parties in the Diet as the single dominant party. Some in the opposition bloc believe it is important to first create an environment in which the ruling and opposition parties are on equal footing.

The CDPJ, with the help of a civic group, has concluded policy agreements with the JCP and other parties, and the JCP intends to provide “limited cooperation without having a cabinet minister from the party” if the CDPJ takes power.

The Democratic Party for the People is negative about cooperation with the JCP, and has put economic and fiscal policies at the forefront of its agenda. Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) has distanced itself from the united front of opposition parties and is calling for reform. The DPFP and Ishin are probably aiming to gain the support of conservative and middle-of-the-road voters who are dissatisfied with the ruling parties.

The House of Councillors election is coming up next summer. The future of the confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties as well as the united front created by opposition parties will be determined by which of the opposition parties’ strategies are successful in the lower house election.

During the campaign, the parties battled over measures against the novel coronavirus and economic policies. Policies related to the distribution of wealth were prominent, but deeper discussions on economic growth and securing financial resources were not held.

After the dissolution of the lower house for the general election, North Korea launched ballistic missiles, one of which was a new type, and 10 naval vessels from China and Russia took the unusual step of passing through the Tsugaru Strait and the Osumi Strait, traveling a significant distance through the waters near Japan.

It is extremely regrettable that discussions on diplomacy and security were lackluster during the election campaign despite the fact that Japan’s security environment is continuing to deteriorate.

How does each party intend to face this harsh reality? This also can give voters a clue in deciding which party they vote for.

Elections are the ultimate opportunity for political participation, as they determine the state of national politics. It is important that as many people as possible vote and reflect the will of the people in politics.