The Yomiuri ShimbunThe ruling coalition must grapple with difficult policy tasks, using its victory in the latest House of Councillors election as a driving force in this respect but without losing a sense of discipline.
The ruling parties have won more than half of the upper house seats up for grabs, an indication that they have gained a certain degree of public confidence. If the situation in each individual constituency is examined, however, it cannot be said that the Liberal Democratic Party’s position is rock-solid.
Out of the 32 constituencies in which one seat was contested, the LDP lost close races in such prefectures as Iwate, Akita and Niigata. Mistakes made by the Defense Ministry and inappropriate remarks made by a state minister may have played a part. Voters are directing a stern look at the conceit and arrogance resulting from the long-running administration.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave a press conference in which he emphasized: “I will promote national development suited to the Reiwa era.” Abe has just over two years remaining until his term as LDP president ends. He needs to avoid getting mired in inertia and produce results through the implementation of policies.
It is important for him to fulfill his party’s election promise of building a strong economy that can actually be perceived by the people. Despite a recovery in the economy, the situation has not yet led to a virtuous cycle in which household finances can receive benefits, in turn boosting consumption.
It is also vital to ensure that an increase in the consumption tax rate helps secure a stable source of revenue for the social security system, thereby dispelling anxiety about the future in this respect.
For the time being, a diplomatic task that needs to be handled is trade talks between Japan and the United States. With next year’s presidential election in mind, U.S. President Donald Trump is adhering to his aim of reaching an agreement at an early date.
Although he has urged Japan to further open its market for agricultural imports, the degree of openness should be kept to the levels set in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact.
Address low turnout
No efforts can be neglected to cope with growing tensions over the situation in the Middle East, either. At the press conference, the prime minister stressed his intention to continue serving as a bridge between the United States and Iran, saying, “I would like to play a role in working toward the easing of tensions.”
The United States has called for forming a coalition of the willing to secure safety in the Strait of Hormuz. What kind of cooperation would Japan be able to take part in? The government must work out the details.
In the latest upper house election, pro-constitutional amendment forces, such as the ruling parties and Nippon Ishin no Kai, failed to maintain the two-thirds majority necessary for the Diet to initiate procedures for revising the supreme law.
The prime minister called on the opposition camp to join constructive discussions on the Constitution, saying, “The people have judged that debates should be conducted.” He also indicated that he would not stick to any timetable for constitutional amendment. The ruling and opposition parties should resume sessions at the Commission on the Constitution in each chamber of the Diet at an early date.
What is worrisome about the latest upper house election is the low turnout. The figure fell below 50 percent, the second-lowest level in all such elections.
The lack of excitement during election campaigning largely was because opposition parties were not able to present proposals countering those of the predominantly strong Abe Cabinet, with both sides talking at cross-purposes in policy debates.
It is hardly convincing to insist on upgrading the substance of the social security system while opposing the consumption tax rate hike. The opposition parties should hone their policies in a realistic manner.