Rhetorical Hatoyama opens Diet

'Bloodless restoration' but no specifics

by Jun Hongo and Alex Martin

Calling his mission the “bloodless Heisei restoration,” Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama kicked off a 36-day extraordinary Diet session Monday pledging to revamp postwar politics and establish a society based on his notion of fraternity.

But his policy speech to the Diet, which was full of catchphrases, anecdotes and quotes, was short on specifics, especially regarding how to finance the Democratic Party of Japan’s election promises.

“This is the restoration of rule from bureaucrat reliance to the people,” Hatoyama, told the Diet, which will be in session through Nov. 30.

Referring to the Meiji Restoration that followed the unseating of the shogunate and brought crucial changes to Japan in the late 19th century, Hatoyama said challenges ahead are no less exigent than during the country’s historic transformation. “The real time for change lies ahead. Let us make today the day of commencement,” he said.

On specific policies, Hatoyama promised that his administration will prioritize assisting the public in need of government help.

The DPJ’s pledge to distribute child allowances and offer free high school education will be steadily implemented, he said, while also vowing to make mending the public pension system a “national project” over the next two years.

But while breezing through the speech with phrases pleasing to the ear, Hatoyama fell short of clarifying measures to secure financial resources for some of the DPJ’s pet projects.

“We will wash out any wasteful spending of tax money,” he said, but without elaborating on other means to cover the costs.

“The speech was focused on explaining the prime minister’s ideals,” a government source said, explaining that details and the means to bankroll the DPJ’s proposals will be demonstrated by Hatoyama at the ordinary Diet session in January.

Hatoyama’s speech touched briefly on his mismanagement of his political funds. Some of the donors listed by his fund management body were either deceased or denied making any contributions. He apologized and promised to cooperate with ongoing investigations.

On rebuilding the economy, he reiterated that market systems where the weak become the victim of the strong should be adjusted.

“There was an elderly woman among many who refused to let go of my hand when I visited Aoyama Prefecture for the (Aug. 30 election) campaign,” Hatoyama said, adding her son had committed suicide after failing to find work.

“I cannot forget the sorrow in her eyes,” he said, pledging to rebuild a society where people can support each other and seek a better life together.

Hatoyama touched on his promise to cut Japan’s carbon gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, saying the “green industry” can become the linchpin of the nation’s economic growth.

On relations with the United States, Hatoyama said he will seek an “equal” partnership and exchange frank opinions on bilateral issues, including the relocation of U.S. Futenma military air base.

“By equal, I am saying that Japan should become active in proposing specific policies so that the Japan-U.S. alliance can play a contributing role for world peace and security,” Hatoyama explained.

Japan will not simply extend the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Indian Ocean refueling mission but will contribute to antiterrorism efforts through agricultural assistance and job training in Afghanistan, he said.

While limiting references to specific measures for effecting change, the prime minister trotted out a variety of ideological slogans including his “fraternity” catchphrase and Japan “serving as the bridge” in the international community. He quoted Albert Einstein to embody his ideals.

“We exist for other people first of all, for whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends,” he said.

Hatoyama’s speech, unusually long at nearly an hour, was criticized by the DPJ’s foes, particularly the Liberal Democratic Party.

Former internal affairs minister Kunio Hatoyama, the younger brother of the prime minister, said the occasional standing ovations that greeted the speech reminded him of North Korea, “although they don’t have a Diet.”

Kunio Hatoyama said many of the concepts his brother outlined — gender equality, allowing foreign residents to vote in local elections and permitting married couples to have separate surnames — reflected a socialist ideology coated with rhetorical flourishes.

Key points of Hatoyama’s first Diet policy speech

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s government vows to:

• Abolish the style of politics that depends on bureaucrats and create a new climate in which politicians and people can take the initiative.

• Review existing budgets and projects at administrative offices to eliminate wasteful spending of taxpayer money.

• Seek to protect the lives of the people under the philosophy of “fraternity.”

• Offer monthly allowances for families with children and scrap public high school tuition.

• Provide support for small and midsize companies struggling with the continued economic slump and adopt emergency steps for jobless people.

• Transfer power to local governments and drastically review the postal privatization scheme to revitalize regional economies.

• Play a leading role in international negotiations on curbing global warming, with a target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels.

• Launch efforts with “unwavering resolution” to hand over a world free from nuclear weapons to future generations.

• Pursue a “close and equal” Japan-U.S. alliance to maintain peace in the Asia-Pacific region and deepen a “multilayered” relationship with the United States to address various global challenges.

• Work hard to contain North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and resolve the abduction issue as early as possible by “every conceivable means.”

• Promote the idea of forming an “East Asia community” for close regional cooperation in such areas as economy, environment and trade.