Lower House races begin

The campaign for the Aug. 30 Lower House election officially kicked off Tuesday. The election results will have a great impact on the course of Japan’s future because there is a chance that the Liberal Democratic Party’s domination of Japanese politics may end. The election represents a chance for voters to render a decisive verdict on the performance of the coalition of the LDP and Komeito.

After the September 2005 election, which handed the LDP a landslide victory, three LDP leaders became prime ministers without receiving a voter mandate. Prime Minister Taro Aso has made many flip-flops on important policy and political matters. Under the retrenchment policy inherited from the Koizumi administration, the nation’s social security, including medical services and support for the socially needy, has deteriorated.

Thanks to the ruling coalition’s spending on economic stimulus packages, the economy does show signs of recovery. But it is uncertain whether any recovery can be sustained for long. Voters will have to carefully consider these matters before voting.

The Democratic Party of Japan, the No. 1 opposition party, is calling for a change of government to give Japan a fresh start. Its program, aimed at enabling politicians to take the initiative from the hands of bureaucrats in developing policy, includes establishing a national strategy bureau under the auspices of the prime minister and sending more than 100 politicians into government ministries and agencies.

The most recent polls show that the DPJ has stronger voter support than the LPD, but that doesn’t mean that the DPJ support is solid. Voters may want more explanations about how the DPJ plans to finance policies such as a child allowance, toll-free expressways and income compensation for farmers. Voters also may want more explanations from the LDP as to how it will put the nation on a stable economic recovery path.

Political parties should revise their manifestos to make their proposals feasible, if necessary, and present a broad vision of the future in areas such as economic development, social security, diplomacy and education.