The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is increasingly displeased with the Office of the Prime Minister [Kantei] retaking the initiative in policymaking following the ruling party’s landslide victory in the Lower House election last month. The LDP argues that the Kantei is mapping out policies, such as a “revolution in human resources development” advocated by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, without consulting with the party. On the other hand, the LDP has rejected some policies and forced the Kantei to make changes, resulting in an ongoing conflict between the LDP and the Kantei with the government and the Diet being involved.
“The party will lead discussions,” said LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida at the first meeting of the “strategic headquarters for the 100-year life,” which he leads, on Nov. 8. His remark shows the party’s commitment to building a system for the “revolution in human resources development.”
The government plans to draw up a policy package worth two trillion yen in early December in order to achieve social security for all generations. Prior to the plan, Kishida is trying to compile the party’s proposal within this month. He also said, “We will ask [the government] to reoffer the policy package to us to make sure that it reflects our ideas.”
Kishida warned the government, as Kantei-led politics, which had gone into decline following the LDP’s crushing defeat in the Tokyo municipal assembly election in July this year, has returned as a result of the party’s sweeping victory in the Lower House election last month. In securing funding for tuition-free education, Prime Minister Abe asked the business community to shoulder 300 billion yen without prior consultation with the LDP. The party, which had held a series of discussions on the issue, was suddenly out of the loop. LDP Chief Deputy Secretary-General Shinjiro Koizumi reacted sharply to Abe and said, “If things remain as they are now, there is no reason for the LDP to exist.”
The government, which has set a goal of making Japan a tourism-oriented country, is considering the introduction of an “exit tax” of 1,000 yen per person on people leaving the country in order to raise funds for tourism promotion. There are no indications that the issue had been discussed in advance at the party’s tax panel and the party’s insiders are frustrated.
The LDP and the Kantei are also clashing over Diet management. The prime minister once said that the amount of question time allotted to opposition parties should be reduced. But Hiromi Yoshida, secretary-general of the LDP’s House of Councillors caucus, told LDP Acting Secretary-General Koichi Hagiuda, the prime minister’s aide, at a meeting of party executives on Nov. 7, “The government should not interfere in what the legislative body does.”
But there are some cases in which the LDP made its presence felt. The government intended to offer tuition free pre-school education for all children aged three to five at registered daycare centers and kindergartens which meet government standards. But it later decided to include non-registered day care centers in response to a strong request from the LDP.
As for the special Diet session, the Kantei planned to hold the session only for eight days. But the LDP insisted that “the public won’t be convinced unless the Diet is managed carefully,” allowing the session to run for 39 days. A former cabinet minister says, “The cabinet support rate will plummet if the government is arrogant. The party has no choice but to closely watch the government.”