A summary of editorials from leading Japanese newspapers (December 19, 2014)
post date : 2014.12.19
A summary of editorials from leading Japanese newspapers, posted biweekly.
The Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, secured more than 320 seats combined in the Dec. 14 House of Representatives election—an overwhelming victory that handed the ruling coalition an absolute majority in the 475-seat lower house.
The Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party, did not win as many seats as it had hoped although it gained 11 more seats from the pre-election strength to 73. Its leader, Banri Kaieda lost his seat in the Tokyo Constituency No. 1, prompting the largest opposition party to arrange a race to replace Kaieda.
The so-called third-pole political force, represented by the Japan Innovation Party, the Party for Future Generations and the People’s Life Party, saw its seats considerably reduced from the last election in 2012. The Japanese Communist Party, on the other hand, more than doubled its seats from 8 to 21 on the strength of its organized election machinery.
All five national dailies wrote about the election on their editorials on Dec.15.
What election results show
The Yomiuri Shimbun and The Sankei Shimbun said voters gave a strong nod to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Abenomics measures, while The Asahi Shimbun and The Mainichi Shimbun said the major victory does not signal public endorsement for all policies pursued by Abe. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) said Abe won public mandate to push his economic policies, but warned against complacency on the part of his administration.
“There has now been a clear expression of the people’s will to see the Abenomics economic policy package continue, to ensure that the nation’s economy snaps out of prolonged deflation,” The Yomiuri said. The Sankei also hailed the victory, by saying “The people gave strong support [to the ruling parties] to continue and accelerate the policy of regaining a strong Japan.”
On the other hand, The Aasahi warned that the stunning victory “by no means entitles or qualifies the administration to do whatever it likes” and that “Constitutional democracy does not give carte blanche to a government born out of an electoral win.”
The Mainichi also said the victory should not be taken as public confidence in “Abe politics as a whole,” as the prime minister made Abenomics the sole election issue. “Various other issues including the reactivation of nuclear power plants, social security in an era of rapid aging and depopulation, and information control under the new special state secrets protection law were barely addressed during the campaign period. The ruling parties did not even raise the issue of constitutional reinterpretation allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense,” it said.
The Nikkei was rather alarmed by the lowest ever voter turnout recorded in this election. The newspaper said having such a low voter turnout meant that voters were raising serious questions about the appropriateness of this election. “It is a grave situation. We should immediately reexamine what form Japan’s politics should take, including the roles of opposition parties.”
Opposition parties struggling
The Mainichi, The Sankei and The Nikkei said that the opposition parties must rebuild themselves to counter the behemoth LDP so as to ensure the health of Japan’s parliamentary democracy.
“There was a time in Japan’s bitter past when party politics ceased to function, eventually leading the country on the path to war,” The Mainichi said. “Without a reliable opposition, there’s a chance Japan will veer off the right path when the LDP administration comes up against a brick wall.”
The Sankei said it is essential for the country to have a political force that is capable of devising different policies from the ruling camp to revitalize Japan, while at the same time, having realistic diplomatic and security policies to protect national interests. “It is urgent to build an alternative political force, which can debate over national visions with [the ruling camp] for the health of our democracy.”
The Nikkei cast doubt over the DPJ’s ability to reconstruct itself under the current circumstances and said the party should seriously consider joining forces with the Japan Innovation Party and other opposition parties to counter the LDP-Komeito
Myriad of challenges
The Yomiuri said Abe should use the public mandate he got in this election to push a range of divisive policies, such as the establishment of new security legislation and the restart of idled nuclear power plants, in addition to his economic policies.
The newspaper also urged the nation to reform the lower house election system, “an issue linked to the legitimacy of the status granted to elected members of the chamber” because of existing geographical disparities in the relative weight of one vote.
The Mainichi said his administration must produce clear results from its growth strategy and its efforts to restore the nation’s fiscal health.
The Nikkei said the Abe administration must attain a “virtuous economic cycle” for the nation through its growth strategy, while carrying out deregulation measures to subdue nagging resistance from politicians, bureaucrats and business. “The political assets of having the overwhelming majority in the lower house should be used for these ends.”
The Sankei cited, among other challenges, a need for the ruling camp to debate constitutional revisions and said the prime minister should exercise his leadership in advancing debates on changing the top law.
The Asahi said: “The Abe administration should first of all ensure the economic recovery that Abe promised and distribute its fruits appropriately to the people to narrow the economic gap.”
*English translations of The Yomiuri, The Asahi, and The Mainichi are from The Japan News, The Asia & Japan Watch and The Mainichi, respectively. Those for The Sankei and The Nikkei are provisional. The content of this page was made by the Foreign Press Center/Japan and does not reflect the opinion of the Japanese Government or any other organization.