Prime Minister Taro Aso and the Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Hatoyama held their first one-on-one Diet debate Wednesday. Surprisingly this is only the second time that top leaders of the ruling and opposition camps have debated this way since Mr. Aso came to power in September 2008. Mr. Ichiro Ozawa, Mr. Hatoyama’s predecessor, held only one such debate with Mr. Aso, in November 2008. We welcome Mr. Hatoyama’s ready participation in what was a fierce debate, even though the content was not necessarily satisfactory.

Conscious of the coming Lower House election, Mr. Hatoyama explained his idea of the “politics of brotherly love” and called for a change of government. He said that since Mr. Aso has no specific idea of what he should do as a national leader, bureaucrats have come to take the initiative in politics. He said the DPJ aims to carry out politics for the benefit of ordinary citizens and to push decentralization. Mr. Hatoyama’s argument on these points sounded rather abstract.

Mr. Aso expressed doubt over the DPJ’s ability to lead the nation. He said that while he does not oppose the concept of “brotherly love,” he has doubts about the DPJ’s ability to properly handle issues such as national security and social security.

Both were at loggerheads over the issue of Nishimatsu Construction Co.’s political donations to Mr. Ozawa. Mr. Aso criticized the DPJ for retaining Mr. Ozawa in its leadership. Mr. Hatoyama criticized prosecutors for failing to take any action against LDP politicians who received donations from Nishimatsu. He also mentioned a DPJ bill that would prohibit political donations from companies and labor unions in three years.

Mr. Hatoyama criticized the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget as a “budget of bureaucrats by bureaucrats for bureaucrats.” But he needs to present the DPJ’s policy for social security reform and other issues and its way to secure tax revenues, showing how the DPJ’s vision is different from that of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito. Mr. Aso and Mr. Hatoyama should hold more one-on-one Diet debates to discuss issues in concrete terms.

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