The Asahi Shimbun
Summary: Editorial discusses
the state of politics in Japan.
The Asahi Shimbun
Editorial: Lost decade of politics
must cultivate seeds of future leadership.
"A new era has begun. This marks a new chapter, rather
than a new page'' in the history of Japanese politics. That was
Morihiro Hosokawa's assessment on Aug. 9, 1993, when his coalition
government became the first administration not dominated by the
Liberal Democratic Party since its founding in 1955.
were high for change in both politics and the nation in general
under a government that had displaced the LDP after 38 years of rule
and with the promise of genuine political reform. There was earnest
debate at the time over various approaches to the nation's future.
In the decade since then, the political situation is still in
turmoil and the credibility of politics and politicians is in
shreds. People blame politics for all the nation's woes, from the
flaccid economy to fears for the future.
The LDP, which slithered
back into power just 10 months after Hosokawa took office, has clung
to its ruling mandate by desperate effort, changing coalition
parties frequently. The party's policy responses to the economic
downturn, with no effort to dig up entrenched vested interests, have
saddled the government with hulking debt, while procrastination on
needed reforms is hindering economic revival.
were essential if it was to stay in power, the LDP chose Junichiro
Koizumi, an outspoken reformist, as its new president, and thereby
the nation's prime minister in 2001, despite Koizumi's promise to
``destroy'' the LDP if necessary to achieve his structural reforms.
But Koizumi's reform agenda lost its political momentum long ago.
The Lower House's new electoral method of combining single-seat
constituencies with proportional representation, adopted under the
Hosokawa administration, was supposed to catalyze a change of
government. But the opposition parties have failed to grasp this
opportunity by constantly regrouping under new banners.
failed to develop an effective strategy and the political muscle to
oust the LDP again. The upshot is continued rule by the LDP through
an alliance with New Komeito.
Meanwhile, voters with no party
affiliation have since become a majority. Certainly, the choice of
realistic policies has become much narrower. But much of the blame
for voters' disillusionment with mainstream parties when the nation
is beset by so many serious problems should be placed on political
Consider, however, how voters are responsible
for the ``lost decade'' of domestic politics. A nation's political
landscape is based on voter preferences. Some people who don't like
change have voted for candidates promising to keep things unchanged.
Others, fed up with opposition parties, have not even bothered to
The nation's voters generally hate to be jerked around. They
are also considered tolerant of the lack of accountability and
transparency in politics.
Recently, however, there are signs of a
change of voter attitude. Criticism of wasteful public works
spending and people who push for such projects is more intense than
could have once been imagined. Rising consciousness as taxpayers
could serve as powerful agents for political change.
Change is also
coming in the political community. Legislators who first entered the
Diet in 1993 have become an influential force in politics. Many in
the opposition Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan) entered politics
to break an LDP rule supported by the iron triangle of politicians,
bureaucrats and business. More young LDP members are also putting
their priority on good policymaking.
Diet members have drawn up
much more legislation-492 bills in the past five years. That is
triple the number from the five years preceeding the Hosokawa
administration. Many were submitted by young opposition legislators.
An election is coming. Voters are responsible for cultivating the
seeds of a new political future for the nation.