For the past decade, the Japanese political scene has remained extremely unstable. Things have gone from bad to worse since the Liberal Democratic Party formed a coalition government. The root cause of the instability was the LDP’s loss of majority status in both Houses of the Diet.
Public criticism of the LDP has grown since Yoshiro Mori became prime minister a year ago. Such criticism may stem in part from fabrications on the part of the media, but it is more deeply rooted in Mori’s qualifications.
At long last, he has announced that he will resign, and the ruling party is scheduled to elect its new president on Tuesday, with Junichiro Koizumi, Ryutaro Hashimoto, Shizuka Kamei and Taro Aso vying for the post.
Aside from the question of who will win, I wonder if the LDP will succeed in reforming itself to become a political party worthy of the people’s trust.
I have long held the view that resuscitating the LDP will be extremely difficult, and that simply electing a new president will produce no major change. The LDP cannot be expected to change unless LDP members in both Houses and party members at large first change their ways.
An analogy can be drawn with the period immediately following World War II, when the rebirth of Japan was effected by those who had opposed the military’s grip on the nation.
After the war, the government was in the hands of those who had opposed military rule, like Kijuro Shidehara and Shigeru Yoshida. History tells us that, more often than not, a new era is opened by those who fought against the old rulers.
Although the LDP undoubtedly did much to benefit the people of Japan, the same party must be blamed for the crisis currently facing this nation. Today, some 30,000 people commit suicide every year, while traffic deaths exceed 10,000 annually. These people are all victims of the failure of LDP politics.
During World War II, many lives were lost because of misdeeds on the part of the military, while in recent years, many people have become the victims of political failures. The large number of those who take their own lives represent the people’s feeling that they can no longer rely on an LDP-led government. Today’s economic collapse and growing social unrest all stem from bad politics.
After the war’s end in 1945, Japan underwent drastic changes, as many new political parties replaced military rule and women were given voting rights. The entire nation underwent structural reform. A large number of politicians and business leaders who had cooperated with the military regime were purged, and new political blood was injected into the system.
Today, however, the LDP no longer responds to the people’s wishes and appears to be interested only in satisfying the demands of its members. In short, the LDP has grown arrogant, and nobody trusts it.
Under new leadership, the LDP may undergo some changes, but I doubt if the party is capable of thoroughly remaking itself.
In the immediate postwar years, there were more than 30 political parties in Japan, which were subsequently consolidated into a handful of political groups.
In the autumn of 1955, two major conservative parties — the Liberals and the Democrats — joined forces to form the Liberal Democratic Party, while the left and right wings of the Socialist Party merged to become the Japan Socialist Party, inaugurating a new age of two-party politics.
It took 10 years of twists and turns before Japan could put an end to military rule, consolidate parties and establish a new political landscape. This leads me to believe that the average life span of a political party in Japan is 10 years.
The fact that there have been 10 prime ministers in the past decade shows that the LDP is already dead. It can no longer stand on its own feet, without the support of a coalition, and has become incapable of preparing and implementing policies responsibly.
I would like to call upon politicians to put into effect a second round of conservative amalgamation. Both the LDP and the Democratic Party, headed by Yukio Hatoyama, have no choice but to disband and jointly create a new party for the good of the nation, because both these parties stand for the principles of freedom and democracy. This is an urgent matter.
It is true that within the Democratic Party, there are some who still follow the philosophy of the old Socialist Party, and even between the LDP and the Democratic Party there are differences regarding such matters as constitutional amendment, educational reform, collective self-defense and economic restructuring.
I believe, however, that it is incumbent upon the two parties to agree on major principles and set minor differences aside.
Politicians must not be shortsighted. They should look ahead by learning lessons from their forerunners, who united the conservative forces 46 years ago.
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