Yomiuri: October 23, 2017 – p. 1
“Implement policies humbly”
By Riichiro Maeki, political editor
While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been able to win five straight victories in national elections, ending a month of political vacuum, he needs to remember that one major factor behind this latest victory was simply the opposition parties’ missteps. Therefore, he needs to continue to work on policies “single-mindedly.”
Tensions are high on the Korean Peninsula and this will be the most important item on the agenda at the Japan-U.S. summit taking place early next month. However, it is dangerous to simply go along with President Donald Trump, who has been talking repeatedly about the military option. Abe needs to use his diplomatic skills to promote international cooperation, including cooperation with China, to build an encirclement of North Korea to prevent it from taking reckless actions.
In domestic politics, many important bills, including the bills on work-style reforms, were not discussed in the Diet due to the sudden dissolution of the House of Representatives. The government needs to work on such issues as economic stimulation, employment, waiting lists of childcare facilities, low birth rate, and aging population to make sure that the third arrow of the Abenomics growth strategy will be effective this time.
There will certainly be moves toward the realignment of the opposition parties after the election. While the voters have rejected their recent election-motivated actions, there is no doubt that a healthy opposition capable of confronting the powerful ruling bloc is necessary. They need to learn from their defeat and realign forces.
Asahi: October 23, 2017 – p. 1
“Opportunity to review Abe’s political predominance”
By Shiro Nakamura, general editor and chief of Layout Department, Tokyo main office
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has won another major election victory, but he admitted that “there are still people critical of me and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP),” so he must have sensed the popular will seeking change in his one-man domination of politics.
This election was a judgment on Abe politics, and the voters’ verdict is that they will continue to entrust the government to the LDP-Komeito coalition, but they want a Diet with a greater interplay between opposing groups.
The “Abe brand” is no longer that powerful, as evidenced by the declining cabinet support ratings in light of the Moritomo and Kake scandals and the LDP’s crushing defeat in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election. Cabinet disapproval ratings were also higher than support ratings during the election period. The voters are tired of or discontented with the prolonged Abe administration.
While support for the LDP remains strong, the main reason behind the latest election victory was that the opposition parties dug their own graves. There is now a growing gap between the ruling parties’ landslide victory and popular will.
Abe needs to be aware of this reality and give up his one-man domination of politics, which has been criticized for arrogance and the resulting strain. He needs to take this as an opportunity to rethink his political stance.
Many issues raised during the election campaign, including the Moritomo and Kake scandals, remain unsettled. He needs to change his aggressive attitude toward the opposition and his critics and shift from the politics of numerical strength to politics of consensus building.
If he misreads popular will from now on, he will be in for more hard times.
Mainichi: October 23, 2017 – p. 1
“Listen to the people’s voice”
By Chiyako Sato, political editor
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be keeping his job thanks to the opposition parties’ disarray. While the dissolution of the Lower House for a general election was unjustified, this election was not meaningless. The candidates were in contact with the voters and were able to listen to their strong criticisms.
Despite Abe’s election victory, the Moritomo and Kake issues remain unresolved, while cabinet disapproval ratings continue to exceed support ratings. If Abe persists in high-handed politics, not only will his election for a third term as LDP president be in peril, he will also face serious political distrust and suffer its consequences.
He also has to remember that the voters have not given him a carte blanche on constitutional revision and the North Korea issue.
Democracy is built on meticulous processes. While a majority vote is the rule, Abe must not be impatient for answers; he should identify the issues, engage in thorough discussions, and form a broad consensus. He must always listen to the people’s voice.
Nikkei: October 23, 2017 – p. 1
“Abe must address Japan’s painful challenges”
By Kiyoyuki Uchiyama, political editor
Japanese voters have concluded that the Abe administration remains a better option than the alternatives.
Abe dissolved the Lower House for a snap election mainly for the sake of political strategy, so there is concern that he may also adopt self-serving policies after the election.
For example, he said that he wants to use additional revenues from the consumption tax increase to address the issue of the dwindling birth rate. How, then, will Japan be able to repay the over 1,000 trillion yen in government debts? While the consumption tax will have to be raised above 10% in the future, Abe is talking only about a time span of no more than two years.
Abe’s diplomatic policies also fail to look ahead. Continuing pressure on North Korea may be the correct response for now but he made no reference to what is to be done thereafter.
It is unwise for Abe to hastily pursue constitutional revision. Constitutional reform will be necessary at some point, but doing so under the current circumstances would only deepen political divisions.
Abe’s top priority should be to seek cooperation from the opposition camp to pull Japan’s economy out of its deflationary malaise, raise the potential growth rate, and reform the country’s social security system.
Since Abe may potentially serve as prime minister until 2021, he should discuss the future of the country without avoiding reference to painful challenges.
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Sankei: October 23, 2017 – p. 1)
“Time to take advantage of the Prime Minister’s good luck”
By Fumito Ishibashi, deputy chief editor and political editor
Prime Minister Abe is an incredibly lucky person. When he was forced to dissolve the Lower House in light of the tense North Korea situation, he secretly calculated that the LDP would be able to win 250 seats, or 40 seats fewer than before the election. Little did he know that Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike would launch the Party of Hope and the Democratic Party (DP) would merge with the new party.
The LDP was confident of winning a total of 26 million votes in the single-seat districts and this would be an invincible number if the opposition parties remained divided. Luckily for Abe, the Party of Hope’s momentum fizzled out and divisions among the opposition forces presented him with another landslide victory.
Although this was a victory won partly by the enemy’s tactical errors, the administration’s winning this victory is still of great significance. Abe will now be able to take the initiative in responding to the North Korea issue backed by the strong bonds between Japan and the U.S. and to do his best to rescue the abduction victims.
However, we are a bit pessimistic about constitutional revision even though the LDP, Komeito, Nippon Ishin, and the Party of Hope will enable the forces in favor of constitutional revision to control a two-thirds majority in the Lower House. This is because it may not be possible to engage in constitutional debate or to hold a referendum on constitutional amendments amid the North Korea crisis.
The constitutional revision process will take at least six months. Even if Abe is elected for a third term as LDP president in the fall 2018, a House of Councillors election will be held in 2019 and the Tokyo Olympic Games are taking place in 2020. It will be difficult to create an environment conducive to constitutional revision.
Nevertheless, forces against constitutional revision are now a minority. It is the duty of both ruling and opposition parties to engage in serious debate in the Diet.
A contingency in North Korea is no longer a matter of no concern for Japan. The situation may even make constitutional revision an urgent issue. The Prime Minister should believe in his own good luck and look for an opportunity to submit motions for constitutional amendments.
Tokyo Shimbun: October 23, 2017 – p. 1
“Listen to the people’s voice”
By Minoru Fukada, chief commentary writer
Many people voted in this election with the thought of conveying the popular will to the politicians. They were worried about Abe politics for his high-handed enactment of the “anti-conspiracy law” in defiance of democratic processes in the Diet. They had lost trust in light of the Moritomo and Kake affairs.
Is it possible to talk about revising Article 9 of the Constitution, which will overturn Japan’s pacifism, without political trust?
Democracy sometimes makes mistakes, but it zigzags and makes amends in order not to go astray. The sovereignty of the people is supreme in a democracy. Politicians need to listen to the people’s voice if they want to govern the country. It is necessary to wait for the people’s voice before clamoring about constitutional revision.
What is needed now is the restoration of democracy.