Prime Minister Taro Aso, who also heads the Liberal Democratic Party, and Democratic Party of Japan leader Ichiro Ozawa each showed resolve at their parties’ respective conventions Sunday to win the coming Lower House election. The election will be held by September when the current Lower House members’ term expires.
In the LDP convention, Mr. Aso expressed his determination to maintain the LDP-led government, stating that the LDP is the only party with the ability to work out measures to pull Japan out of its current economic crisis. Mr. Ozawa said at the DPJ’s convention that the time has come to completely change the nation’s system and create a new Japan, emphasizing that this is the only way to protect people’s lives. Despite their strong words, however, both parties have weak points.
The public’s memory is still fresh of how Mr. Aso wasted precious time in failing to promptly submit a second supplementary budget for fiscal 2008 to the Diet session that ended in December. The approval rating of the Aso Cabinet is also low.
Mr. Aso’s grip on party members appears weak. Proposed cash handouts amounting to ¥2 trillion to all households, included in the supplementary budget, is so unconvincing a measure that Mr. Yoshimi Watanabe, a former administrative reform minister left the LDP, and one LDP lawmaker abstained from voting. Some LDP lawmakers could revolt in a second Lower House vote on the supplementary budget. Mr. Aso’s plan to raise the consumption tax in 2011 also faces resistance from some LDP lawmakers.
Based on its slogan “People’s lives come first,” the DPJ is calling for measures such as increased child allowances, income compensation for farmers, wider installation of solar panels and the construction of quake-resistant school buildings. But it is unclear how to raise necessary funds.
Both the LDP and the DPJ lack coherent policy measures backed up by concrete financial resources to reinvigorate the nation now facing an economic crisis amid the rapid graying of the population. They should present clearly written policy proposals to people well in advance of the election.
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