DP should not shirk discussions on constitutional amendment

The Yomiuri ShimbunAlthough the Democratic Party will mark the first anniversary of its formation on March 27, there is no sign that the opposition party will be able to escape the decline in its strength.

The DP has held an annual party convention. “I will stake my entire political career on seizing the reins of government and realizing an inclusive society,” party President Renho said in an address to the meeting.

The DP’s support rate has remained in single digits. There is a large disparity between the approval ratings of the DP and the Liberal Democratic Party, whose figure has hovered around 40 percent. The DP has said it will work to “cultivate an affluent society, and create politics for [the aim of] offering considerate support for people’s lives,” but merely reciting such abstract appeals will not increase the party’s public support.

What is important for the DP is to work out realistic, convincing policies while also striving to steadily expand its regional organizations.

DP Secretary General Yoshihiko Noda clearly stated that the party will reinforce cooperation with other opposition parties in the next House of Representatives election.

If the DP cooperates with the Japanese Communist Party, a consensus on basic policies between the two parties must be taken as a fundamental premise of such partnership. If the DP easily compromises with the JCP, which does not rule out scrapping the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty and abolishing the Self-Defense Forces in the future, the DP will be condemned for forming a partnership for the sake of convenience.

What is questionable is that Renho pledged to submit to the Diet a basic bill aimed at ending nuclear power generation. The target will be pursued by making thorough energy-saving efforts and introducing renewable energy, she said. Ultimately, her assertion seems to be tantamount to acting in concert with the JCP, which has opposed the reactivation of nuclear power plants.

Estimate energy needs

Renho’s remark came just after the DP’s leadership had abandoned the idea of moving forward the target year for having “no nuclear power plants in operation,” in response to objections from both within and outside the party. However, Renho expressed willingness to move up the target year. It is irresponsible to publicize the no-nuclear-power bill already, without making projections for the future demand and supply of electricity and generation costs.

The DP’s action policy adopted for 2017 refers to amendment to the Constitution, saying the party will “actively promote discussions based on changes in the times and shifts in the will of the people.”

The DP has remained passive about debating pertinent issues at the lower house Commission on the Constitution and a similar panel in the House of Councillors. The DP should not shun discussions related to the foundation of the nation, even if its members include advocates of protection of the Constitution and that the party needs to give attention to the JCP and others.

More than a few DP members have advocated constitutional amendment. Given this, the party must adopt a “active” stance on matters related to the Constitution, as stated in its latest action policy.

As the centerpiece of its “investment in people” scheme, the action policy has spelled out a plan to “immediately show a realistic road map” for the realization of “tuition-free education.”

Renho has insisted on submitting a necessary bill in the form of legislation drafted by Diet members, but DP deputy leader Goshi Hosono has called for revising the Constitution in pursuit of the target. If the goal of realizing tuition-free education is pursued in all seriousness, it is indispensable to discuss relevant issues, including how to secure necessary funding.

With a Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election scheduled for July, a succession of DP members have left the party despite their likely endorsement as a candidate by the party. Groups of DP-affiliated assembly members have merged, and newly named themselves Tokyo Kaikaku Giin-dan (Tokyo reform assembly member group). They left because of their resentment and anxiety regarding the party’s status quo.

The question is how the DP will integrate the opinions of its members after listening to different views expressed within and outside the party, and confront the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Renho will be tested on her leadership abilities in this respect.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 14, 2017)Speech


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