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POLITICS > Elections

Opinion: Gov’t needs to manage politics by closely listening to different voices

  • July 22, 2019
  • , Tokyo Shimbun , p. 1
  • JMH Translation

Takayuki Shimizu, head of political news department


During this election campaign, a shocking incident took place. When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was making a stump speech in Sapporo, police surrounded a man and woman who were heckling Abe and restrained and removed them from the site.It was an incredible action in a democratic nation.


But when we look back on the past six and half years since Abe took the reins, a similar scene passed through our minds. The special secrecy law, security laws, and the “conspiracy” law were steamrolled through the Diet despite protests mounted by citizens outside the National Diet Building. The government did not listen to opposition opinion, which called for the allocation of sufficient time to “thoroughly” discuss issues, and used “numerical superiority” to force the adoption of its opinions.  


In addition, Prime Minister Abe attacks forces that are critical of and object to him in strong language and disparages the former government led by the now-defunct Democratic Party of Japan as a “nightmare.” He tends to view different opinions with hostility and ostracize people who object to him. Bureaucrats, on their part, make assumptions about what Abe wants as they fear being sacked. This gave rise to the Moritomo-Kake scandal. Even online critics of the government come under attack. The Sapporo incident appears to have taken place as an extension of these.


There is a “seven and three doctrine” within politics. Kenzo Kono, who hailed from the Liberal Democratic Party and served as House of Councillors president in the 1970s, once said: “The role of House of Councillors president is not simply to remain neutral between the ruling and opposition camps. The president should provide minor and major parties opportunities in the ratio of 7 to 3.  Minor parties should be given more opportunity for debate than major parties. Major parties, on their part, should accept this and make concessions. This spirit of tolerance will foster parliamentary politics in a true sense.” He bore this in mind in running parliament.


In democracy, the ruling government takes the lead in policy-making as it has a majority of seats in parliament. But democracy upholds an important principle; minority opinions should be respected. Respect for minority opinions will result in the incorporation of a wide range of public opinion into policies and society will become stable. Abe’s pet project to revise the Constitution meets with opposition from many people. The Abe government needs to manage politics by closely listening to different voices.

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