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The focus of Japanese politics is shifting to the question of when Prime Minister Taro Aso will dissolve the Lower House for a snap election. The Lower House members can retain their seats for slightly more than five months at most because their term expires Sept. 10. In addition, Mr. Aso, whose government has formed the largest-ever economic stimulus package — with actual spending at ¥15 trillion — hinted that if the opposition forces oppose the package in the Diet deliberations, he may dissolve the Lower House in May.

Because a Lower House dissolution in May cannot be ruled out, 62 Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers have formed an association to call on the party leadership to work out a detailed campaign platform. They complain that because the party has not decided on the content of a manifesto, they cannot clearly tell their voters what long-term goals the party is pursuing. Their argument is valid and applies to other parties as well.

In the coming Lower House election, the election issue should not be limited to short-term measures to end the economic downturn. Both the ruling and opposition parties must present their visions of future Japan and policies to turn their visions into reality.

The economic downturn has revealed the frailness of the nation’s social safety nets. The political parties need to show convincing proposals to improve the nation’s pension, employment insurance, vocational training, and medical and nursing care services. They also must demonstrate how to ensure long-term economic growth.

The Democratic Party of Japan, the No. 1 opposition party, needs to snap out of the state of dormancy it has been in since the arrest of party leader Mr. Ichiro Ozawa’s chief secretary. It should be aware of its responsibility to present a feasible grand vision of Japan backed by a solid financial plan.

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