Kishida must respond to mandate by steadily achieving results / Advance pending foreign, security issues

The government must respond to the public’s mandate by putting its policies into practice and compiling results. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party should not be complacent about securing stable power and needs to straighten up in managing the administration.

Based on the results of the House of Representatives election, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is also the president of the LDP, and Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi met to confirm the continuation of their coalition government. The second Kishida Cabinet is expected to be launched during a special Diet session to be convened Nov. 10.

Although the LDP lost seats, it managed to hold 261 of them to secure an absolute majority, allowing the party to stably manage Diet affairs. At a press conference, the prime minister said, “The public has shown its desire to have the Kishida administration shape the future of the nation, and I feel responsible for doing that.”

LDP must get act together

Since the prime minister took office just a month ago, the election results cannot be said to show that his achievements have been evaluated and he has gained the public’s confidence. Whether Kishida will be able to produce results steadily regarding the issues Japan faces by taking advantage of the stable political foundation gained in the election is being put to the test.

In addition to LDP Secretary General Akira Amari, who lost in his single-seat constituency, veteran LDP lawmakers lost their seats one after another, including former LDP Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara.

The public seems to be taking a hard look at the arrogance of the long-running LDP administrations. The prime minister must bear this in mind and respond with a sense of urgency.

The prime minister intends to appoint Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi as LDP secretary general to replace Amari, who has expressed his intention to resign from the post. It is a blow to the administration that the party was forced to replace the key post of secretary general at a time when the administration is getting into full swing. The House of Councillors election is coming next summer. The LDP should swiftly get its act together.

The top priority for the present is to prevent a resurgence of the novel coronavirus. At the press conference, the prime minister expressed his intention to announce soon the overall picture of measures to prepare for the spread of the virus.

Swiftly materialize policies

To save people’s lives, it is vital to secure hospital beds and medical workers for COVID-19 patients, and supply vaccines and drugs appropriately. The government needs to present comprehensive measures in an easy-to-understand manner so that the public can feel a sense of reassurance.

The government and the ruling parties plan to compile economic measures in mid-November and pass a supplementary budget for the current fiscal year that reflects these measures by the end of this year.

The coronavirus pandemic has been brought under control and economic activities are gradually resuming. However, it will take time to get back to normal life as before the outbreak. There is an urgent need to support businesses and households in need that have been hit hard by the pandemic and give a boost to economic revitalization.

The focus of next fiscal year’s budget compilation will be on how to materialize a “new capitalism” as advocated by the prime minister. Kishida set up a panel of experts to discuss policies for a virtuous cycle of economic growth and redistribution of wealth.

It is reasonable to recognize that the benefits of the Abenomics economic policy package have not spread to small and midsize companies and rural areas. The Cabinet led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also sought to raise wages at many companies and correct economic disparities, but could not do so.

If Kishida does not present effective measures to raise incomes, as he has called for, public expectations for his administration could wane.

The key to economic revitalization is whether the growth strategy will bear fruit in such areas as decarbonization and digitization. The prime minister needs to exercise his leadership in tackling such issues as promoting investment, technological development and regulatory reform from various angles.

In his first overseas trip since taking office, the prime minister is scheduled to visit Britain to attend the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26). He plans to make a speech at a top-level meeting and hold talks with other leaders including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Use diplomatic experience

Attention will be paid to whether Kishida will be able to use his long experience as foreign minister to carry out active summit diplomacy.

The security environment in East Asia is becoming increasingly severe. North Korea has repeatedly test-fired new missiles, while China has continued to conduct military provocations in the East China Sea and threaten Taiwan.

Japan, in cooperation with the United States, must persistently urge China and North Korea to refrain from repeated acts that threaten regional stability. To strengthen deterrence, the ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito should consider as soon as possible how to respond to missile attacks.

The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, and the Japanese Communist Party, which formed a united front in the lower house election, both lost seats, while Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) made great strides. The results show that voters evaluated opposition parties differently.

There have been arguments within the CDPJ calling for the leadership including party chief Yukio Edano to take responsibility for the election results.

Since falling from power, former Democratic Party of Japan members have repeatedly merged and split parties due to conflicts over security policy, constitutional revision and cooperation with the JCP. The defeat in the latest lower house election can be seen as a sign that the united front among opposition parties including the JCP has reached an impasse.

It is impossible for opposition parties to envision their future unless they thoroughly review their party management and policymaking and make steady efforts to strengthen their local organizations, not merely reshuffle their leadership.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Nov. 2, 2021.Speech