CDPJ needs more discussions to be able to craft foundational policies
17:10 JST, January 26, 2022
The year 2022 is expected to continue to pose challenges for Japan on issues including the pandemic, foreign affairs and the economy. This is the 12th installment in a series of articles on how authoritative figures in various fields view these matters. The following was excerpted from remarks by former Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in a recent Yomiuri Shimbun interview.
In the leadership election for the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan last November, 47-year-old Kenta Izumi was chosen as the party’s new head. I believe this represents a generational change, creating an atmosphere of reform in the party.
A new poster created by CDPJ at the end of last year featured Izumi and the three other candidates who competed to become the party’s leader, all lined up together. It’s good to see them get along well, but I think Izumi should promote his distinctive characteristics.
The CDPJ suffered a defeat in the recent House of Representatives election, ending up with 14 fewer lower house seats than it previously held. It won’t be easy to rebuild our party, but it’s vital for us to instill in the public a sense of trust and stability as the No. 1 opposition party ahead of the House of Councillors election slated for this summer.
First, we have to be able to craft foundational policies by thoroughly discussing relevant issues within the party. Whether the people entrust our party with running the government will depend on whether we can assume a responsible attitude in discussing the foundation of national affairs: diplomatic and security policies, and tax and fiscal policies. It is also important for us to move as one once a decision is made.
We should have moved ahead more prudently, in a united front with other opposition parties in the recent lower house election, including the way we should present ourselves to voters.
A single-seat constituency is a battle to choose one candidate, making it necessary for opposition parties to band together. By forming a policy accord with the Japanese Communist Party, however, our party could have invited misunderstanding among voters that we would naturally be the same as the JCP, even regarding the country’s key policies.
I don’t think anyone in my constituency thought that I hold the same views as the JCP. But many candidates with weak electoral bases were put at a disadvantage as they were seen by voters competing under the framework of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito versus the CDPJ and the JCP.
In particular, the CDPJ pledged a temporary reduction of the consumption tax rate to 5%, and the party also included this in the policy accord with the JCP. Having put my political career on the line for integrated social security and tax reform (see below) when I was prime minister, I was against lowering the consumption tax rate. But, I thought I would stand in the way of the party leadership if I openly objected to the policy that our party had hammered out. So, I took a wait-and-see position.
I never spoke about the consumption tax rate in my public speeches on the street or in my official election publication. The tax and fiscal systems are fundamental policies of the state. The policy accord with the JCP should have been narrowed down more, for instance to such issues as married couples having the right to use separate surnames, a policy that only the LDP opposed.
Partly due to the impact of the novel coronavirus, the government’s fiscal discipline has become loose. People in political circles who talk about fiscal discipline are almost an endangered species now. But politicians should look at putting the state’s fiscal house in order from a medium- and long-term perspective. Most people think it’s unreasonable for politicians to discuss polices that disregard revenue sources.
‘Legitimate’ political party
Yukio Ozaki, who is called the “god of constitutional politics,” regrets in his book published in 1947, “I have made great efforts to create a genuine political party, but I have not been able, no matter what I did, to instill the spirit of a legitimate political party.”
What he meant by the spirit is the axis for a responsible political party that can assume power — its basic philosophy and its basic policies. As long as its axis is firm, the party can retain public support with a sense of assurance, even if it forms a united front with other parties in elections.”
I have been a politician for nearly 30 years, since I was first elected into the lower house. A quarter-century has passed since the electoral system combining the single-seat constituency system with proportional representation was adopted, a system that makes it possible for the reins of government to change hands.
Despite this, however, we have still been unable to put enough of the spirit of a legitimate party into the parties to which I have belonged, something I regret.
To become a party that can square off against the LDP, centrist forces have to unite and form one large cluster of people. We need a middle-of-the-road political party with a good sense of balance that will not skew to the right or the left to criticize the other side.
Politics in Japan won’t improve as long as many weak opposition parties exist in disarray, leaving the LDP to enjoy its one-party dominance. Let us nurture a genuine No. 1 opposition party with a foundational philosophy and policies that are based on a hard look at the future generations of our children and grandchildren.
Integrated social security and tax reform
It was designed to balance the improvement of social security programs with putting the state’s fiscal house in order, by gradually raising the consumption tax rate to 10%. It was meant to lighten the burden on future generations by allocating all the increases in tax revenues to social security programs while limiting the issuance of national bonds. It was agreed on in 2012 by three parties: the then-ruling Democratic Party of Japan led by Noda, and then-opposition LDP and Komeito.
Yoshihiko Noda was born in Chiba Prefecture in 1957. He graduated from the School of Political Science and Economics at Waseda University. After serving as a member of the Chiba prefectural assembly, he was first elected to the House of Representatives from the former Chiba No. 1 Constituency in 1993. Noda is currently serving his ninth term. Having served as chairman of the Diet Affairs Committee of the Democratic Party of Japan and as finance minister, he took office as the 95th prime minister from September 2011 to December 2012 under the DPJ-led government. Presently, Noda is a chief executive advisor to the CDPJ.
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