Party leaders must debate specific ways Japan can overcome hardships

Japan is facing difficult circumstances concerning the pandemic, the economy and national security. It is important for the ruling and opposition parties to discuss practical measures to overcome these situations.

Party leaders have begun a question-and-answer session at the Diet centering on the policy speech delivered by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Kenta Izumi, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), the largest opposition party, called on the government to immediately change its measures against the novel coronavirus to ones that focus on the highly contagious omicron variant. As for economic measures, he proposed “three distributions” — redistribution of income, distribution to regional areas (regional revitalization) and distribution to the future (support for future generations).

In making such proposals, Izumi was apparently thinking of his aim to transform the CDPJ into a political party that will map out and propose policies. However, he should make more specific proposals, such as providing concrete images of measures based on the characteristics of the omicron variant. He also needs to express ideas on how to achieve his “three distributions” goals in concrete terms.

Izumi also again took up issues including the falsification of official documents involving the sale of state-owned land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen, showing his stronger stance toward further pursuing the responsibility of the administration.

His move is believed to be aimed at showing a confrontational stance toward the ruling parties for the House of Councillors election in the summer.

Izumi criticized the government’s decision not to submit to the current Diet session a bill to revise the Infectious Diseases Control Law, which would strengthen the authority of the government and others to secure hospital beds for COVID-19 patients. With Kishida having merely said that the government “will compile necessary measures from a medium- to long-term perspective by around June,” the debate between them was not deepened.

The CDPJ has proposed strengthening the function of the Prime Minister’s Office as a command center. It is hoped that the party will further discuss in the Diet various issues, including measures to secure hospital beds and improve cooperation between the central and local governments.

Nobuyuki Baba, coleader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party), urged the government to lower the classification of the coronavirus under the Infectious Diseases Control Law to around Category V, the same level as seasonal influenza, to facilitate swift treatment.

Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the Democratic Party for the People, argued that PCR and antigen tests should be made available daily, and that even if people become close contacts, they should not be required to stay at home but should be able to work, if they are confirmed to be negative by the tests.

In response, Kishida said, “I would like to expedite the gathering of scientific knowledge and consider effective measures.” But he declined to give an immediate answer on further shortening the isolation period at home.

It is vital for each party to present specific details on what measures are needed in order to maintain social and economic activities while preventing the spread of infections.

It is noteworthy that Baba and Tamaki expressed their support for considering possessing the capability to attack enemy bases in order to deal with missiles that are difficult to intercept.

Izumi showed a cautious stance on possessing such capability, saying that it could not prevent the attacks. He needs to clarify how deterrence will be ensured.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 21, 2022.