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Editorial: Policy debate in LDP leadership race should project future vision of Japan

  • September 8, 2018
  • , The Japan News , 7:55 p.m.
  • English Press

The Yomiuri Shimbun

 

How should Japan’s future course be set in light of drastic changes in international circumstances and a serious decline in the nation’s population? It is essential for the two candidates to hold policy discussions based on their national visions.

 

Campaigning for the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election has officially kicked off. Former LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba is challenging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The party’s new president will be elected on Sept. 20.

 

Under party rules revised last year, the maximum tenure for a president of the ruling LDP has been extended to three consecutive terms totaling nine years. The rule change has enabled Abe to run in the election. For Abe, who has an advantage particularly with votes from lawmakers, this is an LDP leadership race that could pave the way for his extraordinary longtime leadership of the government.

 

The election must be taken as an opportunity to review and evaluate Abe’s measures and handling of the government and make necessary adjustments.

 

To respond to a powerful earthquake that struck Hokkaido, the party has refrained from election-related activities for three days, and events including a debate have been postponed. But it remains desirable to ensure a forum for discussions.

 

A crucial matter is to examine the “Abenomics” economic policy package.

 

The prime minister has stressed his administration’s accomplishments, saying the nation’s nominal gross domestic product has grown and the jobs-to-applicants ratio has risen. Meanwhile, though, price increases have stagnated, and wages have not risen as much as hoped.

 

The prime minister has a responsibility to hammer out improved Abenomics measures to present how to realize the goal of pulling the nation out of deflation. How to deal with side effects of monetary easing is also a point of contention.

 

Ishiba advocates economic growth through measures to bolster small and midsize companies and regional economies. He should clarify his differences with Abe by presenting measures to buoy the economy without resorting to lavish budgetary spending.

 

Show specifics to public

 

It is also important to hold vigorous discussions in the LDP presidential race to raise the public’s interest in the issue of amending the Constitution.

 

The prime minister has expressed his intention to submit to the next Diet session a bill to amend the Constitution with priority placed on revising Article 9 by stipulating the existence of the Self-Defense Forces.

 

It is necessary for Abe to clearly explain the significance of dispelling the notion that the SDF, which serves to protect Japan’s peace, is unconstitutional.

 

Ishiba has criticized Abe for “prioritizing setting a schedule” for the constitutional amendment. As long as he has stressed the importance of amending the top law, Ishiba should clarify his own vision for realizing the amendment.

 

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, which has put forth “America First” policies, has pressed countries to make concessions on trade. There is a possibility that the administration will increase pressure on Japan, which has a significant trade surplus with the United States. It is vital to deepen discussions on appropriate trade policies, including how to counter protectionism.

 

There is also deep-rooted opposition to the prime minister’s political stance due to his administration’s arrogance and laxity. Abe should demonstrate his determination and concrete efforts to regain public trust.

 

The party’s ability will be put to the test in next year’s House of Councillors election. The two candidates also should discuss measures to revitalize the party, such as through reviewing its current public recruitment system aimed at finding talented human resources and strengthening the functions of its policy proposals.

 

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 8, 2018

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