Tokyo Notes

DPJ ‘Riding Roughshod’

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Tokyo Notes

DPJ ‘Riding Roughshod’

Leader of Japan’s main opposition party accuses the ruling parties of inconsiderate governance.

The ruling parties in Japan are riding roughshod over politics in Japan, according to Sadakazu Tanigaki, leader of the country’s main opposition party.

Tanigaki, whose sometimes abrasive leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party has been partially vindicated by his party’s success in winning the recent upper house election, has lambasted the Democratic Party of Japan for bulldozing policies through the Diet and questioned whether it was acting like a party of government.

‘When we look back at the previous session of the Diet we saw the rough management of politics employed by the ruling parties,’ Tanigaki said, speaking at a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. ‘In spite of the fact we had a new prime minister, Mr. Kan, there were no meetings held of the budget committee. Instead Prime Minister Kan rushed ahead to start the election process as quickly as possible.’

Tanigaki also referred to a canceled upper house plenary session used to block a no confidence motion and a cabinet censure motion.

‘These kinds of things have never been seen in the Diet in the past and all the opposition parties from the LDP to the Japanese Communist Party agree that this kind of rough politics should not be allowed to continue.’

Tanigaki must be feeling rather pleased with himself this month. After all, it was not so long ago when the chances of him even remaining LDP leader after the upper house election looked dicey to say the least. Back in April the party seemed to be falling apart with heavyweights such as Yoichi Masuzoe and Kaoru Yosano, showering him with criticism before departing to form their own parties. His own tactics in the Diet were also brought into question on occasion. With the DPJ dithering over which direction to go on Futenma and other issues, how was it possible that the LDP was still trailing in the opinion polls?

But Tanigaki stood his ground and put his job on the line, insisting the LDP would stop the ruling parties from gaining a majority in the upper house. And that’s exactly what he did, although some would argue that the sudden surge in LDP support was largely a vote against the DPJ than a vote for the LDP, spurred on by Kan’s clumsiness with his remarks on raising the consumption tax.

Regarding the LDP’s success in the election, Tanigaki was keen to put the result into perspective.

‘Although we were the No. 1 party in terms of contested seats won, when we look at the upper house election result, I realize we are only halfway along the path to regaining the trust of voters again,’ Tanigaki said, pointing out that the DPJ won more votes than the LDP in the proportional representation segment of the vote. While support for the LDP returned in rural areas, he said, that was not the case in urban areas.

Still, he insisted he wanted to force the DPJ into an early general election and pointed out possible stumbling blocks for the ruling party over the coming months, such as the timing of US President Barack Obama’s visit in November when there is also Okinawa’s gubernatorial election, and whether the DPJ would really be able to put together a budget that keeps a lid on bond issuance and pass the related legislation to approve that bond issuance.

In the meantime, if Kan wanted to talk tax, Tanigaki said he was actually willing to do so. But with one stipulation.

‘During the election he talked about conducting a dialogue on raising the consumption tax without presenting any concrete details. I feel it is very important for the party in government to take a very responsible attitude when discussing such subjects. At the very least a fundamental plan agreed by the ruling party should be presented. If such a plan is presented I would be more than willing to discuss such a plan with him.’

Tanigaki concluded his remarks by returning to his call for the DPJ to behave itself.

‘I hope the ruling parties will learn to become more like ruling parties, meaning to become more proficient at managing the political dialogue,’ he said. ‘We, too, as an opposition party must behave more like an opposition party and learn to grow accordingly.’