The ruling Liberal Democratic Party on March 13 held its first party convention since Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was elected party president last September.
The meeting was held as the world continues to hold its breath over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has threatened to disrupt the global order.
In Japan, policymakers are weighing plans to phase out novel coronavirus restrictions as the sixth wave of infections is subsiding.
The Upper House election this summer will offer voters an opportunity to deliver their verdict on the LDP’s performance as the governing party, which is charged with protecting the lives and livelihoods of the people.
In his speech at the convention, Kishida started out by raising the war raging in Ukraine.
He characterized Russia’s military aggression against its neighbor as “a challenge to order and peace in the world, including Asia.”
He said the conflict should be seen as “our own” crisis and pledged to enhance Japan’s own defense capabilities and its security alliance with the United States.
With regard to policy responses to the pandemic, Kishida stressed his “commitment” to reopening the economy and society while taking “every possible measure to prepare for crunch time.”
Vowing to lead the coalition to a victory in the summer election, Kishida said the “political stability” offered by the coalition of the LDP and its junior partner, Komeito, is crucial for achieving these policy goals.
He made clear he wanted to solidify his administration’s power base. But that should not obscure the fact that the administrations of his two immediate predecessors, Yoshihide Suga and Shinzo Abe, pushed through a raft of controversial policy initiatives by using the muscle of the coalition’s overwhelming majorities.
We urge voters to closely monitor the administration’s performance to determine whether Kishida is truly committed to pursuing “politics of trust and sympathy,” his own political slogan, which was used in the title of the party’s manifesto adopted at the convention.
Kishida expressed his intention to seek “the trust of the people” by pushing ahead with reform of the LDP, which he promised during his campaign for the party leadership election.
He deserves credit for a revision to the party’s rules to set a term limit for top party executives, including the secretary-general, at a maximum of “three consecutive one-year terms.” The change was officially adopted at the meeting.
The development of a “governance code” to establish basic principles for party governance has also been codified into the rules. But the specifics of the proposed code were left to be determined through future debate within the party.
The process of revamping the LDP has barely begun.
The rules governing a political party cannot be considered complete without a provision that requires party lawmakers embroiled in political funding scandals to fulfill their responsibility to answer questions about the allegations raised against them.
Another provision is essential for the party to investigate such accusations to determine if disciplinary action is warranted against the lawmakers concerned.
In this regard, it is also vital to empower the party to take action against the lawmakers whom it backed in elections even after they leave the party as a result of such scandals.
The LDP’s blueprint for reform should also address the urgent challenge of promoting gender equality in politics.
Despite its support for the bill to promote candidate gender parity in both national and local elections, the LDP has failed to respect the principles stipulated in the law.
Women accounted for only 9.8 percent of the party’s candidates for the Lower House election last autumn.
The party manifesto sets a goal of raising the ratio of women in leadership positions in society to around 30 percent as quickly as possible in the 2020s.
But this goal was simply borrowed from the government’s basic plan to promote gender equality, and there is no sign of the party’s strong determination to set an example.
Kishida said he will lead the LDP in a way that demonstrates its ability to change on its own. But a long and rocky road lies ahead for the party’s quest to reform itself.
–The Asahi Shimbun, March 15