This is an election to determine the course Japan should take after overcoming the present novel coronavirus crisis. It is vital to listen to the opinions of each party and calmly judge their ability to execute policies and their sense of responsibility for the future.
Campaigning for the 49th House of Representatives election has officially started, with 1,051 candidates running for 465 seats. It will be the first lower house election in four years and the first major national election since the outbreak of coronavirus infections.
There is an urgent need to revive the stagnant economy and address the medical and administrative issues that have been highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic. Each party has a responsibility to present its own outlook for and solutions to medium- and long-term problems, such as fiscal reconstruction and a declining population.
In Fukushima City, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is also the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, appealed to voters, saying: “It is an election that will determine the future of Japan. After winning your choice and confidence, I would like to pursue politics of trust and empathy.”
The prime minister defines victory as whether the LDP-Komeito ruling bloc can win a majority of at least 233 seats in the lower house.
Without a strong political power base, the administration will not be able to deal with difficult issues. Kishida will be tested as to whether he can maintain stability following six consecutive national election victories under former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
In a speech in Matsue, Yukio Edano, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, said emphatically, “For the first time in nearly 10 years, an election starts for the public to choose which party is most fit to govern.”
Five opposition parties, including the CDPJ and the Japanese Communist Party, have established a united front to support selected candidates in more than 210 constituencies nationwide.
Is it possible to gain a broad understanding of electoral cooperation by the CDPJ and others with the JCP, which has different basic policies on matters such as national security? The parties should explain more clearly how they intend to manage the administration if they come to power.
According to a Yomiuri Shimbun survey, the highest number of respondents said the policy issue to which they attach importance in the election is “the economy or employment.” With the number of coronavirus cases on the decline, expectations for economic recovery are likely to increase.
How will each party promote policies to redistribute wealth in order to deal with the anxieties in people’s lives and expanding economic disparities? Are realistic financial resources secured for that purpose? Attention should also be paid to fiscal reconstruction. It is important for voters to compare the policies of each party and not to make wrong decisions.
It has been said that the quality of politicians has declined. There has been a series of scandals involving the LDP, such as a vote-buying scandal involving former Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai in a House of Councillors election.
It is also essential for voters to determine whether a candidate is trustworthy, as well as evaluating his or her qualifications and abilities, through the election campaign.
This will be the fourth national election since those aged 18 and 19 became eligible to vote, but it is worrisome that voter turnout in that age group has been on the decline. It is hoped that young voters will cast their ballots based on their own thinking about policies that will shape the future, such as education and employment.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Oct. 20, 2021.