The DPJ’s obligation

As the Diet started discussions last week, Mr. Banri Kaieda, head of the former ruling Democratic Party of Japan, queried Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a Lower House plenary session. Although the Dec. 16 general election decimated the DPJ’s strength in the Diet chamber to 57 seats — less than one-fourth of its pre-election strength of 233 seats — the party is still the No. 1 opposition party. As such, its members have an obligation to check the moves of the Abe administration, especially its economic policy and hawkish stance in matters related to the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.

This is all the more important because the Japan Restoration Party and Your Party are close to Mr. Abe in ideology, especially in constitutional questions, and are inclined toward market fundamentalist economic policy.

In his question to Mr. Abe, Mr. Kaieda squarely attacked his economic policy by saying that, under the Abe administration, two things are being revived: (1) pork-barrel politics with “tribal” Diet members representing particular vested interests becoming rampant and (2) a neoliberal economic policy that will lead to creation of a society in which the law of the jungle prevails.

He pointed out that Mr. Abe’s economic policy, which relies on massive outlays for public works projects, will not produce sustainable growth and will only pile up deficits. He also said Mr. Abe’s policy of achieving a 2 percent inflation through unlimited monetary easing could destroy trust in Japan’s financial discipline, leading to lower bond prices and rising long-term interest rates. Prices would rise but not workers’ wages.

Mr. Kaieda’s criticism of Mr. Abe’s economic policy is right on target. The DPJ now needs to delve into the problems of Mr. Abe’s economic and tax policies through committee-level discussions from the viewpoint of improving ordinary people’s lives. To prevent the wasteful use of public money, it should scrutinize public works projects pushed by the Abe administration.

The Abe administration appears set to restart nuclear power plants now offline without committing itself to the eventual abolition of nuclear power generation. Mr. Abe has stated that his government will review from scratch the DPJ government’s policy of ending nuclear power generation in the 2030s.

The Fukushima nuclear crisis forced hundreds of thousands of residents to flee their homes, and some 160,000 of them still cannot return for the foreseeable future. The quake-prone nature of this country makes nuclear power inherently dangerous. The DPJ must grill the Abe administration about its nuclear power policy while convincingly showing the public that Japan can and should create a society that does not have to rely on nuclear power.

The DPJ also must present positions clearly different from the Liberal Democratic Party government in matters related to the Constitution, history — such as the sex slaves used by the Imperial Japanese armed forces — and Japan’s relations with China and South Korea. The party must focus its efforts on writing a party platform that will give people hope by including measures to help stabilize their lives and uphold democratic principles.