Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Rejuvenation of the Democratic Party Administration
FUKUHARA Koichi  / Journalist

September 22, 2011
On September 2, a new cabinet led by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was formed. The Democratic Party (DPJ) seized power following the general elections in August 2009, so within a short span of only two years we now have a third prime minister from the party after Hatoyama Yukio and Kan Naoto.

The outcome of the 2009 elections was received by the public as the long-awaited beginning of two-party rule in Japan. Lower House representatives elected at the time still have two years left of their terms, so keeping the DPJ in power was not the major focus in the latest change of leadership.

Nevertheless, the DPJ lacks the two-thirds majority it needs in the Lower House for any new vote aimed at passing legislation turned down by the Upper House. The hasty switch in leadership came about as Prime Minister Kan was forced to resign, which necessitated a vote to choose a new party leader. Amid a sense of crisis concerning the future course of the administration, the DPJ chose 54-year old Noda from among five candidates to become the new prime minister.

Hatoyama and Kan, the first and second DPJ prime ministers, are both 64 years of age. Ozawa Ichiro, who is widely regarded as the party's strongman, is 69. So a major rejuvenation has taken place. This was a fortunate - if unexpected – outcome that will contribute to revitalizing the Democratic Party.

In the 2009 elections, the DPJ won 308 seats in the Lower House, significantly exceeding the majority of 241 seats. In addition, the Social Democratic Party and the People’s New Party were also invited to join the coalition government, and the Hatoyama administration set off to a relatively stable start.

In formulating the budget for fiscal 2010, the new administration took drastic steps to reform a government budget that had become convoluted and rigid during the prolonged reign of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). It sought to introduce a Child Allowance, make high-school tuition effectively free and initiate an income support program for individual farming households. However, while such ideas attracted much attention, they fell short of expectations in generating fiscal revenue. Budgetary expenditures soared to a record-high and government bond issuance exceeded tax revenues, resulting in a further deterioration in government finance.

In another effort under its slogan of "a break from dependence on the bureaucracy to political leadership"” the administration abolished the meeting of administrative vice ministers and introduced a new system of administrative decision making by the three key posts of minister, vice-minister and political advisor. While the aim was to centralize government policy making, such measures dampened morale within the bureaucracy and have yet to bear concrete results.

Furthermore, due to the inconsistency in security policy within the DPJ, the relocation of U.S. military bases in Futenma, Okinawa, has remained a pending issue in Japan-U.S. relations with no prospects for gaining approval by the people of Okinawa.

Kan Naoto, the first elected leader of the Democratic Party, succeeded Hatoyama as prime minister in June 2010. However, the administrations of these two leading DPJ “stars” proved to be short-lived.

It is questionable whether new policies adopted by the DPJ government have steadily produced results and spread its roots far and wide during a period in which the LDP seemed to be in a stupor following its fall from its long-held seat of power.

Now, as the LDP recovers from its state of shock and prepares for a counter-attack, Prime Minister Noda will be required to demonstrate leadership in transforming DPJ into a unified political party that is truly worthy of shouldering one side of a two-party system.

The election for DPJ leadership was a contest between five candidates. In the initial voting, Noda came in second with 102 votes after Kaieda Banri’s 143 votes. In the decisive vote, Noda won 215 votes against Kaieda’s 177 votes. The margin of votes showed a clear lead over Kaieda, who had the backing of former party leader Ozawa, and gave Noda a steady position within the DPJ.

The priority policy goals of the new government are to achieve reconstruction in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and stability in the nuclear accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Prime Minister Noda is expected to seek a temporary increase in income taxes to generate funding for reconstruction in earthquake-affected regions.

While confirming that the "combined reform of taxes and social security are the established policy of the DPJ," Prime Minister Noda has also said that he is not a fundamentalist where fiscal restructuring is concerned. Noda served as finance minister in the Kan administration, and the specific adjustments he implements will be the touchstone for judging his ability to deliver policy results.

Upon taking office, Prime Minister Noda likened himself to a Dojo loach, a freshwater fish with none of the floridness of a goldfish, and emphasized the importance of reconciliation within the party, solidarity and dedicated daily effort. In allocating posts in the new administration, he vividly demonstrated his consideration for party unity by appointing Upper House Chairman Azuma Okiishi, an Ozawa sympathizer who didn’t support Noda in the party leadership election, to the post of DPJ Secretary-General.

Noda's approach has apparently been received favorably by party members and the general public. Due to its long history in the opposition, the DPJ may excel in criticizing and attacking the government. However, a question mark remains over its ability to promote policies through realistic processes. Its slogan of governing through "political leadership" still gives the impression of being a formality for eliminating bureaucratic influence.

Let us hope that Prime Minister Noda will demonstrate the effects of rejuvenation and generational change, encourage the DPJ to develop into a political party capable of administration from one that can only criticize, and consequently contribute to the formation of a two-party system rich in meaning.

The writer is former Chief Editorial Writer of Kyodo News Service.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

福原亨一 / ジャーナリスト

2011年 9月 22日
9月2日、野田佳彦首相 の新内閣が発足した。2009年8月の総選挙で民主党政権が誕生してか ら、僅か二年で、鳩山、菅両氏に続く三人目の同党首相だ。

09年選挙の結果は、待望久しかった二大政党制の到来と受け止められた。この選挙で当選した衆院議員の任期はまだ2年 残っているから,民主党政権の維持、継続は今回の焦点ではなかった。

しかし,民主党は参院で否決された議案を再議決、成立させる衆院議席の三分の二を持ってはいない。三人目の首相の慌ただしい登板は、菅直人首相が辞任に追い込まれ、繰り上げ党首選を余儀なくされた民主党が、今後の政権維持に危機感を感じながら五人の候補  者から54歳の野田氏を新首相に推し出した。



鳩山内閣は、 2010年度予算編成に当たり、自民党の長期政権期に肥大硬直化した予算の思い切った改善を目指し、子供手当や高校授業料の実質無償化、農家 への「個別所得補償」などの実現を試みた。その着想は大きな関心を集めたが、期待したほどの財源は得られず、歳出予算は過去最高に、国債発行額は税収を上回って財政は一層悪化した。

また「官僚依存から政治主導へ」のスローガン で、事務次官会議を廃止し,大臣、副大臣、政務官の政務三役による事務当局の意思決定の仕組みを導入、政府による政策決定の一元化を図ったが、官僚の士気を低下させ、思うような成果を上げてはいない。










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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Rejuvenation of the Democratic Party Administration