--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 2
EDITORIAL: LDP should stop being so pathetic
New Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met with Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki and New Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi on Sept. 1 to seek their cooperation.
The meetings attracted attention for how the opposition parties, in particular the LDP, would respond, but their reactions were very dry.
The LDP denies the "legitimacy" of the third prime minister of the DPJ administration.
That is why Tanigaki reiterated that the LDP would continue to cooperate until the third extra budget is passed the Diet and that after that, the Lower House should be dissolved as soon as possible for a snap election.
But we are afraid that that is not the right thing to do.
The crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has not been brought under control.
Efforts to recover and rebuild from the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami have yet to get on track.
Many stricken areas are still putting off local elections that had been scheduled for this spring.
We believe the ruling and opposition parties should continue to work together in compiling the budget for fiscal 2012 and accelerating rebuilding efforts.
Looking back to the time the opposition submitted a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet of Prime Minister Naoto Kan in the Lower House in June, Tanigaki did say: "(If Kan) resigns, there will be plenty of areas where we can join hands and transcend differences between parties."
The LDP should ponder why its public approval ratings remain low despite the fact that voters are finding the DPJ administration deeply disappointing.
Take, for example, the tripartite agreement between the DPJ, LDP and New Komeito in August.
The agreement to pass special legislation allowing the issuance of deficit-covering bonds in exchange for a review of the child-allowance and other DPJ pet projects represented a setback for the ruling party and an end to the Kan Cabinet.
The LDP could have scored a major points.
However, the LDP's tactic to use the legislation to issue deficit-covering bonds as leverage failed to win over public opinion.
This is because everybody is aware that past LDP administrations are the ones responsible for the nation's situation in which the government cannot compile a budget without borrowing a huge amount of money.
Having gone out of power, the LDP has been re-examining its policy platform and increased the number of applicants from the general public to run as LDP candidates.
But it has yet to fully sum up the misgovernment that led to the government's reliance on debts and public anxiety about public pension programs.
And it has yet to present solutions to these problems.
Even if a Lower House election is held this year, the LDP would be seen as pathetic if its greatest weapon is criticism of the DPJ's policies.
Moreover, what are LDP's stances on tax hikes, nuclear policy and the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement?
Although the DPJ's intraparty strife tends to draw more public attention, the LDP, too, has similar problems.
Both the DPJ and LDP are unable to agree on uniform policies to chart Japan's future course within their own parties, so to speak.
If a Lower House election is called under such circumstances, voters would be at a loss over which party to support.
Thanks to the new administration's efforts to unite the DPJ, it seems unlikely that a no-confidence motion against the Cabinet would be passed any time soon.
At the same time, unless the opposition agrees, bills cannot be passed in the Diet.
The LDP is urged to fully engage in policy formation, taking advantage of the situation.
It should propose revisions to government-sponsored bills and submit its own legislation.
Only after the LDP appeals itself as a party that made a fresh start can it open a new chapter in its history.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 1
EDITORIAL: Noda needs to rebuild Japan's diplomacy.
Newly elected Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is Japan's new public face.
Noda has a duty to undertake the onerous challenge of fixing Japan's broken diplomacy as well as its dysfunctional internal politics, which is plagued by a raft of intractable problems.
For the three months since Noda's predecessor, Naoto Kan, first announced his intention to resign, Japan's diplomacy has been stagnant.
The prime minister's visit to the United States, scheduled for the first half of September, has been postponed.
Dates have not been set, either, for the prime minister's visit to China, which should start fresh efforts to improve the bilateral relations strained by a diplomatic row over the disputed Senkaku Islands, or for South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's trip to Japan under a bilateral agreement on regular mutual visits of the two countries' leaders.
Fortunately, however, a series of important international conferences are scheduled to take place in the weeks through November, starting with the United Nations General Assembly meeting, to be held in late September. They also include this year's East Asia Summit, which will be the first to be attended by the United States and Russia as formal members, and meetings of the leaders of the Group of 20 major countries and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
These events will offer great opportunities for Noda to put Japanese summit diplomacy back on track.
As he prepares for these meetings, Noda should develop his government's comprehensive foreign and security policy agenda and present it to the public as soon as possible.
The global balance of power is in flux due to economic turmoil in major industrial countries and the rise of emerging nations.
The wave of democratization in the Arab world and new trends in international terrorism should also claim the attention of the international community.
Japan now needs a grand vision and a grand strategy based on clear ideas about its future and role in the world.
During the Democratic Party of Japan's leadership race, there was little debate among the candidates on diplomatic issues.
Even more troubling, Noda's political resume doesn't include much diplomatic experience. While he has attended some international economic conferences like meetings of finance ministers and central bankers of the Group of Seven richest countries, he is basically a novice in diplomacy, with his diplomatic prowess an unknown quantity.
But he created an international stir before becoming prime minister by expressing controversial views about Japan's wartime past, symbolized by his argument that the Class-A war criminals are no longer war criminals, and by making remarks that provoked China.
In voicing concerns about China's military buildup and naval expansion in the region, Noda recently said China may "whip up nationalism" by making moves that bother Japan.
News media in both China and South Korea have already labeled him as a "hawk" or "hard-liner."
But it is probably not Noda's intention to go about planting seeds of diplomatic conflict.
It would be wise for him to send out a clear diplomatic message by at least declaring that he will not visit the Yasukuni Shrine, where the Class-A war criminals are enshrined along with the general war dead, while he is in office.
Next year will see leadership elections and the change of guard in many major countries, including the United States, Russia, China and South Korea.
Under the heated political climate of an election year, the leaders of these nations will inevitably be very sensitive to public opinion at home.
As a result, they may be tempted to make more political moves and gestures aimed at the domestic audience.
That could complicate the environment for diplomatic efforts.
The DPJ-led government has lost much of its credibility through diplomatic blunders.
The government of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama badly mishandled the issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, an American military base located in the middle of a densely populated city in Okinawa Prefecture.
The Kan administration botched its response to the collision between a Chinese trawler and Japan Coast Guard vessels near the Senkaku Islands in September 2010.
Japan has seen so many leadership changes in recent years that foreign media now like to make fun of its "revolving door" or "merry-go-round" of prime ministers.
Noda has pledged to "say what must be said without restraint" for candid and straightforward conversations with his foreign counterparts.
We hope he will build relationships based on mutual trust with foreign leaders through thoughtful words and actions.
Koshiishi must get Noda's policies implemented
New Democratic Party of Japan President Yoshihiko Noda was named Tuesday as the nation's prime minister to head the 95th cabinet.
We can sense Noda is trying to form an administration whose members are united and all pulling in the same direction like a baseball team, which is different from the administrations of his predecessors.
But will this be possible considering the DPJ has repeatedly been rocked by internal rifts?
Noda has informally decided to appoint Azuma Koshiishi, chairman of the DPJ caucus in the House of Councillors, as the party's secretary general, and former Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara as chairman of the party's Policy Research Committee.
It is extremely rare for an upper house member to serve as secretary general of a ruling party, a very important post.
Koshiishi is close to former DPJ President Ichiro Ozawa.
By placing Koshiishi in a prime post, Noda apparently is trying to end the intraparty conflict between "pro-Ozawa" and "anti-Ozawa" members--frictions that surfaced during the DPJ presidential race--and build a united party.
It substantiates Noda's call to have no hard feelings after the election.
The new Noda administration will face a mountain of important issues--including a review of the DPJ's election promises, which are full of dole-out policies; tax increases to secure funds for disaster reconstruction and social security reform; and possible participation in negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
Useful ties with LDP, Komeito
In the DPJ presidential election, Noda made arguments supporting those issues.
However, outgoing Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda and the other candidates opposed them. いずれも野田氏が代表選で主張してきたが、海江田万里経済産業相らは異論を唱えた。
Koshiishi, who backed Kaieda in the election, will be tested on whether he can smooth over differing opinions among party members and get these policy measures implemented.
Koshiishi has long been a facilitator of DPJ upper house members and has strong connections with the major opposition Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito.
We think he should use his skills to enact the third supplementary budget for disaster restoration as quickly as possible in the so-called divided Diet, where the opposition controls the upper house.
Meanwhile, Maehara is an expert in foreign and security policies, and of the same generation as Noda.
The two have a cooperative relationship.
Noda apparently tapped Maehara to be the party's policy research chief in a bid to keep a balance with Koshiishi, a senior politician.
In the party leadership race, Maehara advocated a review of the Policy Research Committee.
He wanted more party lawmakers involved in the policy-making process.
This fits in with Noda's plan to form a united team.
Review of policy panel
Noda has decided not to make the party's policy research chief double as a cabinet minister, but to demand the government in principle seek his consent in making a decision.
This apparently is intended to enhance the functions of the party's Policy Research Committee and have its opinions reflected in government policies.
Under the government of outgoing Prime Minister Naoto Kan, when decisions were made on integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, and the basic policy on disaster restoration, some DPJ members opposed them and demanded revisions to the government plans. This caused constant confusion.
Simply involving more lawmakers in the policy-making process might cause delays in decisions on policies such as tax hikes, which some lawmakers, including Ozawa supporters, have resisted.
It is important to make conclusions properly based on constructive discussions.
Question marks remain over whether a revamp of the DPJ's policy research panel, an attempt to create a policy-coordination mechanism between the government and the ruling party, will work well.
That will be an important hurdle the new administration must clear.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 31, 2011)
DPJ must revive itself through generation change
The Democratic Party of Japan-led administration has for the first time a leader with a steadfast political style and well-grounded policies.
In the DPJ's presidential election Monday, Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda defeated Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda in a runoff.
It was a dramatic come-from-behind victory for Noda, who picked up the support of groups whose candidates finished second or lower in the first round of voting.
Noda will be named head of the nation's 95th cabinet Tuesday.
After serving as a member of the Chiba Prefectural Assembly, Noda was elected to the House of Representatives. He has since been elected to the lower house four more times.
Noda, 54, will be the first prime minister who graduated from the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management.
The DPJ-led administration has been blighted by a string of administrative failures and unproductive infighting that has disappointed the public.
Many people have lost confidence in the party.
The new administration must break free from the "troika" era led by former party leader Ichiro Ozawa, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
Interparty cooperation crucial
In a speech before the runoff vote, Noda expressed support for an accord among the DPJ and the opposition Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito on certain key policy issues. "Will the Diet be able to go forward if we ignore the three-party agreement?" he said. "Won't a new administration grind to a standstill [if we ignore it]?"
This was a swipe at Kaieda, who had earlier hinted at rescinding the deal, which was made on the assumption that the DPJ manifesto for the 2009 general election will be drastically reviewed.
To realize important policies in the divided Diet--in which the House of Councillors is controlled by the opposition camp--the DPJ needs to cooperate with opposition parties.
It is quite reasonable that Noda emphasized the need to stick to the three-party accord during debates held ahead of the presidential election.
Noda advocated that present generations should share the cost of providing revenue sources to fund post-disaster reconstruction efforts, rather than passing this burden to future generations.
By saying so, he clearly called for an ad-hoc tax increase, which other candidates were unwilling to do.
We think this also is a realistic position.
To secure enough revenue through tax increases, consideration should be given to not only hikes in income and corporate tax, but also in the consumption tax rate.
Noda's ability will be tested over how to overcome strong opposition to tax increases within his party, and to raise taxes through talks between the ruling and opposition parties.
Black eye for Ozawa, Hatoyama
Noda also said integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, which has a gradual increase in the consumption tax rate as its central pillar, should not be put off any further.
The bottom line is that Noda's arguments won greater support within the party than the line of adhering to the manifesto advocated by Ozawa and Hatoyama, who both supported Kaieda.
Points of contention that were supposed to be resolved during previous DPJ presidential elections later flared up and triggered internal feuds.
Lawmakers who voted for Kaieda this time must respect the maintenance of the three-party accord and reexamination of the party manifesto--the assertions made by Noda.
Noda called for party unity by emphasizing the crisis the DPJ faces for survival, using such phrases as "last chance" and "having our backs to the wall."
Reflecting on past failures, Noda must be firmly resolved to rejuvenate the party.
Every candidate in the DPJ election acknowledged there are problems with the party's process of making policy decisions.
This reflects the chaos outgoing Prime Minister Naoto Kan caused with his haphazard policies.
Noda must show regard for the policy decision-making process.