What’s the LDP’s true agenda?

The Liberal Democratic Party on March 17 held its first party convention since it returned to power following its victory in the Dec. 16 Lower House election and adopted an action plan stressing the importance of winning back control of the Upper House in the coming election this summer.

At the convention, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “We will fight it out in the Upper House election and build a Japan one can be proud of.” Such a statement smacks of arrogance, no doubt fueled by the LDP’s landslide election win and the Abe Cabinet’s high approval rating. Mr. Abe should make efforts to tangibly improve people’s well-being instead of being obsessed with constitutional revisions that are not essential and not urgent.

The LDP proposes to change the Constitution’s “no-war” Article 9 to create full-fledged armed forces. But its draft lacks a mechanism to stop deployment of the armed forces for military missions overseas because it allows such deployment for the purpose of taking part in an international activity to protect peace and security. Under the draft, basic human rights could be restricted in the name of “public interest and public order.”

The LDP may not talk much about constitutional revisions during the campaign for this summer’s Upper House election for fear of scaring away voters, but its action plan calls for stepping up efforts to “enact an autonomously established constitution.” It will be all the more important for voters to carefully watch the LDP’s direction before casting their ballots.

The LDP’s action plan states that while the Lower House election results show people’s distrust of the Democratic Party of Japan, they do not mean that the LDP has won back the people’s trust. This is a correct and honest assessment. According to Kyodo News’ February polls, the approval rating for the Abe Cabinet and the LDP was 72.8 percent and 46.9 percent, respectively. Although the LDP won 294 Lower House seats in the December general election, the number of votes it garnered for both single-seat constituencies and proportional representation was less than that it got in the August 2009 Lower House election, which forced the LDP out of power.

In the early 1990s, the LDP boasted more than 5 million party members. By the fall of 2012, the number dwindled to about 800,000. The LDP should humbly listen to people’s opinions and refrain from engaging in its traditional practice of using pork-barrel spending to drum up support for the party. The public works projects that the LDP advocates under its policy of making the nation resilient to natural disasters should be carefully scrutinized.

Mr. Abe told the party convention that there will be no revival of Japan without the reconstruction of the Tohoku region devastated by the 3/11 disasters. The LDP should not forget the hardships of Fukushima residents who continue to suffer from the effects of the nuclear catastrophe. The logical path should be for the LDP to adopt the policy of ending nuclear power generation.