Critical election to come

Prime Minister Taro Aso finally dissolved the Lower House on Tuesday for a snap election Aug. 30. In the election, the voters will make clear whether they want a government led by the Liberal Democratic Party or by the opposition Democratic Party of Japan. Thus the election will have a great impact on the future course of the nation.

Mr. Aso is the third prime minister in a row to have come to power without a voters’ mandate, after Mr. Shinzo Abe and Mr. Yasuo Fukuda. Mr. Aso’s quality as a prime minister has come into question because of his flip-flops on policy matters, including the ¥2 trillion cash stimulus distributed to people and the reorganization of the health and welfare ministry.

To quell a move within the LDP to drag him from power, Mr. Aso had planned to dissolve the Lower House immediately after the July 12 Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election. The LDP’s crushing defeat in the election further fueled anti-Aso sentiment, forcing him to delay the dissolution.

He said Tuesday that he is determined to realize a vibrant society in which people feel secure about their future lives. DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama said the election will be a “revolutionary election,” adding that he will lead the election campaign as if it were “an historic mission.”

The LDP-Komeito ruling coalition will face an uphill battle. A July 18/19 poll by Kyodo News shows that 36.2 percent of those surveyed will vote for the DPJ in the “proportional representation” part of the election, while 15.6 percent prefer the LDP. However, 34.7 percent have not made up their minds with 40 days remaining before the election. Each party needs to show people what it thinks are the biggest problems Japan now faces and how it plans to resolve them.

The ruling bloc may well boast of what it has done in the past and attack the DPJ for its fuzziness on diplomacy and the financial resources needed to carry out its proposals. The most important thing for the DPJ will be to present a convincing vision of a future Japan different from the vision of the ruling bloc, so that voters are presented with clear choices.