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Abe must clarify his vision for ‘hundred million plus people initiative”: Kyoto Uni. scholar

  • 2016-01-13 15:00:00
  • , Yomiuri
  • Translation

(Yomiuri: January 13, 2016 – p. 4)

 

 Interview with Satoshi Machidori, professor at Kyoto University

 

 Q: Prime Minister Abe is steadily empowering the Kantei [Prime Minister’s Office] with decision making. Meanwhile, opposition to Abe is growing, and there concerns that he is becoming too influential.

 

 Machidori: Increasing the power of the Kantei was a centerpiece of political reforms carried out in the 1990s. The system envisaged then and has been put into shape. The Kantei also demonstrated leadership under the Koizumi government. This was a natural consequence of the reform initiative taken in the 1990s, not simply a consequence of Koizumi’s unique character. The Democratic Party of Japan also tried to centralize decision-making by stressing the “unity of the government and the ruling parties” when it was in office, but it failed to promote this.

 

 Abe formed his first cabinet mainly comprised of people close to him. In the cabinets formed afterwards, he included those who are not close to him, which suggests that he came to understand the importance of managing the government with a diverse array of people. Otherwise he would not have issued a statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and clinched a deal with South Korea on the settlement of the comfort women issue.

 

 Politics does not face a crisis simply because the Prime Minister’s Office exercises leadership.

 

 Q: Abe was criticized for his way of responding to questions on the security legislation in the Diet.

 

 Machidori: It is out of the question that the prime minister hoots opposition members. He might be overly obsessed by his own foreign and security policies. The Kantei performs well as a team and there are people who chide him when he goes overboard. But during Diet debate they are not able to exercise control over him.

 

 To several people in the Liberal Democratic Party, including Abe, remaining in power is becoming their ultimate goal. And they tend to think that the opposition camp is no longer necessary. The prime minister does not only serve for the benefit of those who support the ruling parties, but he/she is the leader of the country. Abe should learn that voters include DPJ supporters and those who favor the Japanese Communist Party. To make Abe and the ruling parties realize this point, the opposition forces need to play a role in creating tensions in politics and act prudently.

 

 Q: What is your assessment of the government initiative to create society that fully uses the one hundred million plus people?

 

 Machidori: I have no objections to policies such as generating 600 trillion yen in nominal gross domestic product and preventing those who are taking care of family members from quitting their jobs, but the government should convey a more comprehensive message on the goals it seeks to achieve in the economic and societal realms. It will face a deadlock if it just combines policies that pander to the public without sending out a powerful message.

 

 Q: Abe’s term will end in September 2018. Whether he will embark on a constitutional amendment is drawing much attention.

 

 Machidori: I personally feel that current discussions on constitutional amendment do not carry much weight. The need for an emergency clause has been pointed out of late, but in the event of large-scale disasters, extending the term of lawmakers is permissible under the existing Constitution. I doubt the court would judge it a violation of the Constitution.

 

 If constitutional revision is discussed only to create an emergency clause, public opinion will be divided and the government will be worn out. If the government is serious about revising the Constitution, it should not choose to “try its hand” at things that are not significant. Rather it needs to be prepared to boldly discuss a national vision that it has mapped out. (Slightly abridged)

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