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Editorial: Abe must advance policies based on mission entrusted in poll / Eliminate ‘arrogance,’ steer govt carefully

The people have not necessarily shown their full support of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. But they hope that the prime minister will maintain stable politics that will clearly lead to economic revitalization and security for Japan. This is the popular will that was shown this time.


The Abe-led Liberal Democratic Party scored a landslide victory in the 48th House of Representatives election, with the number of seats it won far exceeding that needed for a majority. The LDP will continue its partnership with Komeito to maintain the coalition government. Abe has won his fifth straight national election since the 2012 lower house election.


After the election’s outcome became clear, Abe expressed his determination to govern, emphasizing that “we want to achieve results one by one under a stable political foundation.”


Not blind trust


Abe has established a foothold ahead of next autumn’s LDP presidential election in his bid to win a third term. It is essential for him to devise a greater long-term strategy for his administration both in terms of domestic and foreign policies and to lay the foundations for its implementation.


Japan faces an array of difficult challenges, including an escape from deflation, fiscal reconstruction and North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.


The leadership of Japan cannot be entrusted to the opposition parties as they are now. Continuation of the Abe administration, which possesses a comprehensive ability to implement policies, is a realistic option. Voters can be said to have made such a judgment.


As a result of realignment among the opposition parties in which Kibo no To (Party of Hope) was founded, the Democratic Party disbanded and joined forces with Kibo, and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan was founded, opposition parties ran candidates against each other in single-seat constituencies, which diluted the anti-LDP vote. This point in favor of the LDP cannot be overlooked.


Public opinion surveys taken immediately after campaigning officially began showed that the Abe Cabinet’s disapproval rating exceeded its approval rating. Abe should not think his policies and political posturing have won the people’s unconditional confidence.


It is true that voters endorsed the ruling coalition’s governing abilities, but its victory can largely be attributed to the opposition camp’s mistakes.


If the Abe administration’s arrogance becomes visible once more, it would not be strange for its public support to plunge suddenly. Abe must endeavor to govern carefully and humbly and meet public expectations by advancing diverse policy challenges.


The ruling camp has announced it intends to take on such measures as making education free by changing the distribution of additional revenue raised by the consumption tax rate hike set for October 2019.


It is necessary to crack down on pork-barrel spending and design a system to provide assistance to households truly in need. It is also essential to present a new plan for achieving fiscal health, as it is no longer possible to achieve a primary fiscal balance surplus by fiscal 2020.


The Abe administration started with the goal of revitalizing the economy. Rather than rehashing existing policies, it is also essential that the government strengthen its growth strategy from various perspectives to accelerate the Abenomics economic policy package.


Kibo’s weakness


The North Korean situation could become more tense. Japan, the United States and South Korea must act in concert, intensifying pressure on the regime under its leader Kim Jong Un and continuing to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions, while winning China’s cooperation.


The CDPJ started as a party that accepted leftist and liberal-minded members of the DP who could not join Kibo, but managed to widely appeal to people critical of the Abe administration, thus increasing its numbers.


In addition to labor organizations’ support for individual candidates, the CDPJ’s election cooperation with the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party also proved effective.


In the days ahead, the CDPJ may join hands with independents who are former DP lawmakers. The CDPJ will be urged not to become a mere “resistance party,” opposing anything the government and the ruling party do, but to start a constructive debate with them.


It is commendable that Kibo approves of the security-related laws and takes a stance of becoming a conservative opposition party that differs little from the LDP over security policies. Putting an end to hitherto unproductive arguments over security issues is important.


Kibo had once shown its position of aiming to take power. But the party later stalled — apparently due to Koike’s remarks, such as one about “excluding” some of the DP members of the recently dissolved lower house from joining Kibo — and it failed to get back its strength and had a tough battle.


The party’s superficial policies, such as freezing the planned consumption tax rate hike and reducing the nation’s nuclear power generation to zero by 2030, lacked specific details. In the name of pursuing politics unconstrained by vested interests, the party fielded a large number of first-timers with little political experience, a move that was also regarded with skepticism.


The election conveyed the impression of structural weakness in the new party, which had no base as an organization and relied on Koike’s popularity as the one and only feature of the party.


Kibo had a poor performance in Tokyo — Koike’s home turf — while most of its successful candidates across the country came from the DP. It may be inevitable that Koike’s unifying force will decline.


Top law revision


Such moves as lawmakers reverting to the DP on policy, or leaving their party in an attempt to rally the forces of the DP again, would make a mockery of voters and are not permissible.


The JCP had many leftist votes taken away by the CDPJ, thus failing to improve its showing.


In the latest lower house election, the issue of amending the Constitution became a genuine point of contention.


The LDP, Komeito, Kibo and Nippon Ishin no Kai are all positive about revising the Constitution. Although the combined number of seats won by these parties far exceeds two-thirds of the lower house, they have yet to get into step when it comes to which provisions should be revised.


In the days ahead, the LDP will resume its intra-party discussions on four items, including a provision to establish constitutional grounds for the Self-Defense Forces and creating a clause to deal with emergencies, and work out the party’s ideas. Other parties should also draw up their own opinions, without idly putting off their discussion. Such actions will become an important step toward building suprapartisan consensus.

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