Will lower house election voters show confidence in Abe administration?

The Yomiuri ShimbunRegarding the various policy challenges that Japan faces, which parties’ or candidates’ assertions are convincing? Voters should level-headedly determine which of their assertions are true or false.

Official campaigning for the 48th election of the House of Representatives kicked off, with nearly 1,200 candidates registered to run for the lower house’s 465 seats.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his intention of staying on the job if the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito win a combined total of more than 233 seats — a majority.

Kibo no To (Party of Hope) leader Yuriko Koike will not run in the race herself, and Kibo has gone only so far as to field 235 candidates, barely reaching that majority. Koike has also said, “Not all our candidates are expected to win,” so it is hard to anticipate Kibo taking power. There may be no denying the party’s momentum has been stalling.

The upcoming race can be said to have taken on a different character from one where voters choose the administration to one where they decide whether to place their confidence in the Abe administration.

Making an election address in Fukushima, Abe called for the cooperation of the international community to confront the “threat from North Korea.” He also emphasized the need to heighten pressure on Pyongyang, saying “dialogue for the purpose of dialogue is meaningless.”

According to a public poll conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun, the largest number of people polled attached importance to foreign and security policy, more than those who emphasized economic or social security policy. This is an unusual development.

Formulate specific policies

Taking into account that North Korea has repeatedly conducted nuclear tests and launched ballistic missiles, the prime minister considers the election as one to “come through a national crisis.” To ensure the safety of Japan, political parties should hold deeper, more constructive debates.

In her stump speech in Tokyo, Koike asserted her party’s plan of postponing the planned consumption tax rate hike. Disregarding Abe’s intention to redirect part of the allocation of the increased tax revenue to make education free as a “dull proposal,” Koike said to voters, “Let’s change the Abe-dominant politics.”

There are fears that the assertions made by both the LDP and Kibo may result in the pork-barreling of fiscal resources. The cut in funds that would result from a change in the allocation, which was originally earmarked for the nation’s fiscal reconstruction, would be tantamount to a newly accrued debt. Kibo also remains vague as to how to secure tax revenue following the freeze on the planned hike. It is essential to give specific body and substance to their plans.

The deterioration of politicians has long been pointed out. The LDP has had a series of scandals and gaffes involving its young lower house members, who lost their seats after the dissolution. One factor behind this is certainly their having won their seats chiefly due to the way the wind was blowing, without experiencing the slightest hardship.

Although Kibo is in the special situation of having recently been established, the party has fielded a large number of first-time candidates with little political experience. Doubts cannot be dismissed over whether the party has scrupulously selected its candidates.

During the campaign period, the qualities and abilities of individual politicians should also be scrutinized.

For about 2.4 million eligible teenage voters aged 18 and 19, this will be their first opportunity to cast their vote in a nationwide lower house election.

Elections are the root of democracy. There are many points of contention closely connected to young people, such as education and employment. They are urged to use their precious ballots appropriately by, for instance, comparing policies contained in each party’s campaign promises in which they are interested.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 11, 2017)Speech


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