Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was reelected as head of the Democratic Party of Japan on Sept. 21 with an overwhelming win over three other candidates. On Monday, he reogranized the party’s leadership His most important task now should be to consolidate his party, which has suffered the departure of many of its Diet members opposed to his consumption tax rate hike plan
Mr. Noda should provide a clear direction that distinguishes the DPJ policywise from the No. 1 opposition Liberal Democratic Party, and the Japan Restoration Party, a new national party headed by Osaka City Mayor Toru Hashimoto. The latter is gaining popularity among people who want a third party choice amid feelings of economic, social and diplomatic helplessness.
For Mr. Noda, fulfilling the task is all the more important because Lower House elections must be held within a year. He must reinvigorate the party’s guiding principles and work out concrete policies to pull the nation out of its current malaise.
In these difficult times, the LDP and the Japan Restoration Party’s nationalistic rhetoric offers the people only false hope. The latter is also feigning that it is offering new solutions by proposing an end to various economic and social programs, including social welfare, which have evolved since World War II. Mr. Noda should not be tempted to woo voters by imitating his opponents. He should involve party members in the development of basic policies that will unite the party and turn it into a viable political force.
The DPJ took the reins of government from the LDP with no party platform around which party members could unite. The lack of a party platform is partly responsible for the schism that led to more than 70 Diet members, many of them supporters of former DPJ chief Ichiro Ozawa, leaving the party. Mr. Noda garnered 818 out of 1,231 points in the vote to choose the new party head, in which DPJ Diet members and local party members and associate members took part. The win was made easier because of the departure by Mr. Ozawa and some 70 Diet members from the party. In addition to forming basic policies, Mr. Noda should improve the intraparty procedure to decide on policy matters in order to minimize friction within the party.
His short-term tasks include rectifying the disparity in the value of a vote in a Lower House election, enactment of a bill to issue bonds for the fiscal 2012 budget, and compilation of a supplementary budget to buoy the economy. He also may have to make clear the date for dissolving the Lower House to win cooperation from opposition parties. But more importantly, as a national leader, he needs to have the courage to confront and break vested interests. Without this, he will not be able to gain the people’s trust or to implement a “zero nuclear” policy, which is supported by a majority of the people.