During party leaders’ questions, which began at the plenary session of the House of Representatives on Dec. 8, the new leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) Kenta Izumi certainly left the impression that his party was switching away from the confrontational line it had taken with the government and ruling parties in favor of policy proposals.
The CDP had often been criticized for simply opposing the government and ruling parties at all turns. We appreciate the efforts the CDP is making to grow out of that role, as a political party aspiring to government.
In contrast to previous CDP leader Yukio Edano, who used fierce words to slam the administration, Izumi’s questions were dedicated to proposing coronavirus countermeasures and other policies. While pointing out the government and ruling parties’ delays in implementing coronavirus countermeasures, Izumi made 17 proposals, including methods to distribute 100,000 yen (approx. $879) to children 18 and under, and border control methods to stem the spread of the omicron variant.
However, it cannot be denied that the reason the CDP’s criticism of the government has become so muted is that much of what the opposition party and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are aiming for, such as “a shift from neoliberalism,” are similar.
Going forward, which side will be able to present specific visions of society and the state to the public? Only by vying to present its long-term vision, not just its solutions to immediate challenges, can the CDP become a true “policy-proposing” party.
During party leaders’ questions, neither Izumi nor CDP Secretary-General Chinami Nishimura touched on a reinvestigation into the highly discounted sale of state-owned land to nationalist school operator Moritomo Gakuen under the administration of then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, or former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s rejection of six nominees for the Science Council of Japan. This is incomprehensible.
These two problems, which could be called negative legacies of the Abe and Suga administrations, are major cases that threaten the very foundations of democracy, and have yet to be resolved. If Izumi and Nishimura failed to mention them because they were too concerned with the criticism that the CDP is merely contrarian, they have it utterly wrong.
There were already CDP supporters from before Izumi became party leader who were worried that with Izumi as chief, “questioning of the administration would become lukewarm,” or that he would “cozy up to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.” But the CDP must not become lax in its scrutiny of the administration.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kishida’s answers to Izumi’s questions were pretty much in line with previous government responses.
Even if the opposition tries to change, if the government and ruling parties remain the same, debate will not change. This is the first session of the Diet since the Oct. 31 general election. The prime minister, too, must shift from his conventional style of responding to questions.