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Editorial: Restoration of democracy is pressing need

Kishida Fumio, the new president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has been elected prime minister and launched a new administration. Democracy in Japan has come to be in a state of crisis after nearly nine years of “Abe-Suga politics,” and restoring it to a proper condition is an urgent need.

 

Kishida launched his administration after forming his Cabinet yesterday following the appointment of the LDP executive board. Kishida will give a policy speech on Oct. 8 and take questions from the representatives of each party for three days starting on Oct. 11. He will dissolve the House of Representatives on Oct. 14. The Lower House election is expected to be officially announced on Oct. 19, and voting and ballot counting will take place on Oct. 31.

 

The newly launched administration is in fact a caretaker government because a new administration may be formed after the House of Representatives election. Kishida needs to win the House of Representatives election in order to keep his administration.

 

Upon assuming office, Kishida said, “Some people have said that ‘the voice of the people does not reach politics’ and ‘explanations put forth by politicians do not reach the hearts of the people.’ Our country’s democracy is in crisis even as I speak.”

 

Neglect of the highest state institution

 

We also recognize that democracy is in crisis.

 

Parliamentary democracy has fallen into a crisis because “Abe-Suga politics,” led by former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and his successor former Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide, have for nearly nine years neglected the Diet, the highest organ of state power comprising representatives of Japanese citizens and the only institution in the legislative branch of government.

 

 

The Diet is a place where the ruling and opposition parties monitor the administration, investigate national affairs, and discuss policies. The Diet could not fully exercise these functions, however. The Diet has not been able to fully elucidate instances in which political power was appropriated for personal gain, in such scandals as those surrounding Moritomo Gakuen, Kake Gakuen, and the “cherry blossom viewing parties.”

 

All requests to convene an extraordinary Diet session based on the Constitution were ignored.

 

The [Abe-Suga] administrations repeatedly exhibited their high-handedness, such as unilaterally changing the legal interpretation regarding appointments to the Science Council of Japan and changing the government’s current interpretation, which was also maintained by past cabinets, that “exercising the right of collective self-defense” is unconstitutional.

 

“Kantei politics,” in which power and authority are concentrated in the core of the administration, were pursued in a self-righteous way. Governance that did not listen to the earnest voices of the people and gave no explanation of leaders’ actions to the people became prevalent.

 

Kishida may be trying to overcome the crisis of democracy by using his strengths, including “listening to people” and engaging in “magnanimous government that reaches every citizen.”

 

We have low expectations, judging from Kishida’s words and actions and the composition of the Cabinet and the LDP board.  Addressing the crisis of democracy must start from a reassessment of “Abe-Suga politics,” but Kishida is unwilling to do that.

 

Kishida expressed his intent not to reexamine the issue of the sale of state-owned land to Moritomo Gakuen at a bargain price, nor will he reconsider Suga’s refusal to appoint certain nominees to the Science Council of Japan.

 

Democracy cannot be restored without discussion of the elements that brought about the crisis.

 

Kishida appointed Fukuda Tatsuo, a third-term Lower House member, as LDP General Council chair. Thirteen Cabinet members are first-time appointees, including three who are only third-term Lower House members. Kishida must have wanted to revamp the Cabinet, which had become stagnant.

 

Unwillingness to reassess Abe-Suga politics

 

The major ministerial and LDP executive appointments are rewards for those who supported Kishida in the LDP presidential election. The lineup is one that seeks the backing of Abe, who still wields strong influence on the Hosoda faction, the LDP’s largest, even after stepping down as prime minister, and the support of former Prime Minister Aso Taro, who leads the Aso faction, the LDP’s second largest.

 

Amari Akira, who became the LDP secretary-general, supported Kishida in the LDP presidential election and also is an ally of Abe and Aso. Kishida’s appointment of Takaichi Sanae as LDP Policy Research Council chair shows consideration toward Abe who supported Takaichi in the election.

 

Former education minister Matsuno Hirokazu, a Hosoda faction member, was appointed to the key post of Chief Cabinet Secretary over a Kishida faction member. The Cabinet makeup reveals a power structure where Abe is calling the shots. To overcome the “crisis of democracy,” Kishida needs to show that he is free from Abe’s influence.

 

Amari resigned from the Cabinet [in 2016] amid allegations of accepting bribes from a construction company. Amari said he had fully explained his involvement, but his appointment to a key position seems to only show Kishida’s leniency toward “money and politics” scandals.

 

Amari’s appointment may indicate a sense of relief that criticism of the LDP has eased with the resignation of Suga, who had lost his political clout, and with the decrease in the number of new COVID-19 cases. It is premature to think, though, that the people will be in favor of Amari’s appointment.

 

Politics that endanger democracy and ridicule and deceive the people should not be allowed anymore. Each party is preparing its campaign pledges for the House of Representatives election. We would like people to cast their precious votes after carefully considering which political party or candidate can be entrusted to revive our democracy.

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