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Editorial: Despite landslide win, Abe should not become arrogant, work for public

The ruling coalition secured over two-thirds of the 465 seats in the House of Representatives following the Oct. 22 general election, while the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the key governing bloc partner, retained its pre-election strength.


Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the lower house on Sept. 28, the Mainichi Shimbun has broadly covered this election, which it characterizes as “Japan at a crossroads.”


Whether Abe should remain predominant in the political world was a focal point of contention in the election. Abe apparently called the poll to bolster his power base in a bid to ensure that he is re-elected to a third term as president of the LDP in the next party leadership election in autumn 2018.


If Abe is elected to a third term as ruling party leader, he could remain in power until autumn 2021. He could remain as prime minister for nearly a decade including one year as his first stint as prime minister from 2006 to 2007, the longest in the history of Japan’s constitutional politics.


With this fully in mind, voters chose to allow Abe to remain in power.


Prime Minister Abe has gained enough energy to stay on until autumn 2021 following his election victory. However, the prime minister’s role is not to contribute to a certain ideology. He should not be arrogant despite his overwhelming victory, but use his abundant political resources for the good of the public.


Priority should be placed on making sure that the social security system is sustainable amid the declining birth rate and aging population as well as financial difficulties.


In 2025, all baby-boomers in Japan will be at least 75 years old, and the demand for nursing and medical care and the financial burden of such services will sharply increase, mainly in urban areas. At the same time, the government will be hard-pressed to implement social security measures that cover all generations, such as measures to support younger generations as well as those raising their children.


At the same time, the national and local governments are saddled with more than 1 quadrillion yen in debts. There is no magic wand that will ensure both the sustainability of the social security system and rehabilitation of Japan’s debt-ridden finances. The Abe administration should be able to convince the public of the need for striking a balance between social security benefits and the financial burden of such services all the more for its strong power base.


The fourth Abe Cabinet, which is to be launched next week, faces an urgent task to respond to the North Korean crisis.


U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit Japan on Nov. 5. Tokyo should cooperate closely with Washington in responding to Pyongyang’s provocations. However, Tokyo should take care not to invite contingencies by excessively keeping pace with the Trump administration that is leaning toward putting military pressure on Pyongyang.


The ultimate goal for Prime Minister Abe is undoubtedly to revise the postwar Constitution.


Following the election victory, the prime minister could insist that his proposal to amend the supreme law has won public understanding.


Prime Minister Abe has proposed to add a paragraph stipulating the existence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to war-renouncing Article 9. The Mainichi Shimbun is not opposed to raising questions as to whether and how the SDF should be defined in the Constitution.


However, if the Constitution were to be hastily dealt with just like the security legislation and the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, it could lead the country in the wrong direction. Nothing is riskier than work to amend the Constitution that fails to win trust from the public.


It is imperative to calmly discuss the role of the SDF from a long-term perspective and win broad consensus among members of the general public.


Besides whether to add the definition of the SDF, there are numerous points of contention in constitutional debate. In-depth debate should be held at the commissions on the Constitution at both chambers of the Diet, including a review of the role of the House of Councillors.


To make steady achievements, Prime Minister Abe should review his high-handed management of the government.


An opinion poll that the Mainichi Shimbun conducted during the campaign period for the election showed that 47 percent of respondents said they did not think it good for Abe to continue to serve as prime minister after the election, well above the 37 percent who were in favor of allowing him to stay in power.


Nevertheless, the Abe Cabinet managed to win confidence in the election because of circumstances surrounding the opposition bloc.


The Party of Hope, founded by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, was at one point increasing its influence and looked set to become a political force that could threaten the ruling coalition. However, the conservative opposition party rapidly lost public support after Koike blatantly rejected entry by liberal members of the then largest opposition Democratic Party (DP), which had previously decided to effectively merge into the Party of Hope. Furthermore, it came to light that the latter’s intraparty governance was sloppy.


Members of the DP’s center-left and liberal wing reacted sharply to Koike’s high-handed political style and founded the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), confronting the Party of Hope.


A split in voters critical of the government into those who support the Party of Hope and the CDP benefited the LDP under the electoral system centering on single-seat constituencies. Numerous voters who feared Koike’s theatrical political style apparently deemed that the LDP was a better choice than the Party of Hope.


Efforts to get to the bottom of Prime Minister Abe’s favoritism scandals involving two school operators — Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Educational Institution — remain suspended due to the election. The prime minister should not take advantage of his election victory to draw the curtain on these cases.


Among opposition parties, the CDP made a strong showing in the general election, securing far more seats than its pre-election strength.


Opposition parties should play a key role in holding tense and constructive Diet debate instead of allowing the ruling bloc to conduct Diet deliberations at its own pace.

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