Ruling parties must maintain sense of urgency, stabilize government / Ability to govern in difficult times vital

It is hoped that ruling parties will reflect on the laxity that has arisen during their long-term rule and have a sense of urgency in politics. This is the will of the people as expressed in the election. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida must improve his ability to implement policies and overcome difficulties.

In the 49th House of Representatives election, the Liberal Democratic Party maintained its single-seat majority. Together with junior coalition partner Komeito, the LDP-led coalition secured a controlling majority, enabling them to chair all 17 standing committees in the lower house and comprise the majority of members in each committee. “We have been handed the people’s trust in this election to choose which party will govern. I want to run the government steadfastly,” the prime minister said.

Reflect on party dominance

The LDP was forced to endure a tough election campaign. The previous administrations under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga for nearly nine years made a number of achievements in foreign, security and economic policies, but fell behind in the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic and were criticized for insufficiently explaining their policies. There was also criticism of LDP arrogance stemming from its “sole dominance.”

Kishida took the reins of the government just a month ago. The prime minister needs to humbly listen to the voices of the people and manage his administration scrupulously.

Japan is facing not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but also a number of difficult challenges, including full-scale economic revitalization and a declining population.

China, which is rising on both military and economic fronts, is conspicuous for its disregard for international rules, and its confrontations with the United States and other democratic countries are deepening.

Japan has a major role to play for the peace and prosperity of the international community. The direction of Japanese politics will also have an impact on international affairs.

The House of Councillors election will be held next summer. It is the prime minister’s greatest responsibility to ensure political stability so that short-lived administrations do not occur repeatedly. It is hoped that Kishida will meet the expectations of the people by steadily addressing each issue one by one.

In the election campaign, the prime minister called for the creation of a “virtuous cycle of growth and distribution” through “new capitalism.”

However, it can hardly be said that he has sufficiently presented concrete measures to achieve this. It is necessary to promptly clarify the overall picture of his policies and promote economic revitalization.

Japan’s security environment has become even more severe amid North Korean missile launches and China’s unilateral maritime expansion. Japan should urgently map out a policy to strengthen its deterrence against missile attacks.

With the LDP losing seats, there is a view that coordination with the Komeito will become more important within the administration.

Komeito is cautious about such measures as strengthening deterrence. However, as a ruling party, it has a responsibility to carry out necessary policy matters. It is important for the two parties to have many discussions on such matters and reach a conclusion.

United front fell flat

Four opposition parties, including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party, entered the election campaign after concluding a policy agreement with the help of a civic group to abolish what they consider to be unconstitutional parts of security-related laws among other matters. The CDPJ and JCP reached an agreement for “limited cooperation without having cabinet ministers from the JCP” in the event of a CDPJ election victory.

Based on these agreements, the JCP drastically reduced the number of candidates it planned to field in single-seat constituency races. The candidates of five opposition parties, including the Democratic Party for the People, were unified in 213 single-seat constituencies.

Although the opposition parties claimed that the united front had a certain effect, the number of seats secured by the CDPJ fell below the number held before the dissolution of the lower house.

The CDPJ has said it is committed to “pragmatic diplomacy.” But what kind of government does it seek in cooperation with the JCP, which advocates the abolition of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty? A lack of clarity was probably a factor in its election defeat.

The CDPJ, as the largest opposition party, has to seriously accept the fact that it did not become the recipient of votes from people critical of the administration.

The CDPJ’s cooperation with the JCP also drew opposition from some elements in private-sector labor unions.

If the CDPJ aims for a change of power, it should not have appealed for such matters as the abolition of security-related legislation. It should have set out concrete foreign and security policies to deal with the real threats and clearly differentiated itself from the ruling parties through economic and social security policies.

In the run-up to the upper house election, it will be a challenge for the CDPJ to change course regarding the united front and to demonstrate its ability to take charge of the government.

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) seems to have gained support from conservative voters who are dissatisfied with the coalition government. Calling for reforms to achieve growth, Ishin has made great strides in gaining seats not only in the Kansai region, where it has a strong base, but also in the Kanto and other regions.

The LDP may need to seek cooperation from Ishin on issues such as constitutional reform. It is hoped that constitutional debate becomes more active in the Diet.

Campaign debate lackluster

It is unfortunate that the election campaigns lacked excitement, despite the fact that this was the first general election in four years. There was no “tailwind” for either the ruling or opposition parties.

Many people who chose to stay away from polling stations might have been dissatisfied with the LDP but also felt that they could not leave the government in the hands of the opposition parties. It cannot be denied that the campaigns of the parties and candidates were not appealing enough.

It is said that there has been a decline in the number of politicians who engage in their daily activities to include the voices of voters in policy matters. The ruling and opposition parties need to have a sense of urgency and review the way politics is carried out.

— The original Japanese article appeared in the latest edition of The Yomiuri Shimbun on Nov. 1, 2021.