By Ryutaro Abe, staff writer
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the leading candidate in the upcoming Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election, has drawn negative attention for the careless remarks he has made at roundtable discussions and other venues.
During a discussion about constitutional amendment on a TV program aired on Sept. 8, Suga said, “The position of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) is denied in the Constitution.” The government position is that the SDF are constitutional because they are not a military capable of waging war, which is prohibited under Article 9, paragraph 2 of the Constitution. Suga’s utterance on the program could have been taken as an admission that the SDF are unconstitutional.
During a press conference the following day, Suga amended the comment he had made on TV, saying, “I didn’t explain fully what I meant and may have misled some people as a result.” Suga explained, “I meant that there are some that believe the SDF are unconstitutional.” He further clarified, “The formal position of the government is that the SDF are constitutional.”
During a program on another TV outlet on Sept. 8, Suga was asked for his views on economic disparities. He stressed that the ratio of job offers to job seekers has exceeded 1 nationwide, without answering the question on the economic disparities.
Suga has also been criticized for not fulfilling his duty as chief cabinet secretary to give timely explanations to the public. He tends not to give direct answers to inquiries that are inconvenient to the government. Often he only repeats “no problem.” During a joint press conference held by all three candidates, Suga was asked what he would like to do as prime minister about giving explanations to the public and holding press conferences. He responded: “The chief cabinet secretary will meet with the press twice a day,” and “The chief cabinet secretary will explain the administration’s policies.” This suggests an unwillingness on his part to talk more to the press.
A prime minister must answer many questions at the Diet’s budgetary sessions and other venues. Some in the Suga campaign are already voicing concern about his ability to field opposition inquiries. A veteran Lower House member commented on Suga’s remark on the SDF, saying, “It would have been very problematic if the remark had been made in the Diet.” Another member said, “When you compare the three candidates, Suga looks pretty bad. Will he be able to handle Diet interpellations?”