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Friday, Jan. 11, 2013
Can the LDP get it right?
The Abe administration is in full swing after the Liberal Democratic Party took back power from the Democratic Party of Japan in the Dec. 16 Lower House election. The DPJ had run the government for 39 months.
Although the LDP won nearly 300 seats in the election, its return to power has not been greeted with as much excitement as the DPJ was when it became the governing party after the August 2009 Lower House election. Mr. Abe and the LDP should realize that this is because of people's deep distrust of politics.
The LDP, and other parties for that matter, must pay serious attention to the fact that voter turnout in the latest Lower House election was only 59.32 percent, a postwar low and much less than the 69.28 percent in the 2009 Lower House election.
The parties need to seriously consider what they must do to regain people's trust. The LDP got 43.01 percent and 27.62 percent of the respective votes cast in single-seat constituencies and in proportionally represented multiple-seat constituencies.
A different story appears if all the voters, including those who decided not to go to the polls, are taken into account. The LDP received support from 24.67 percent of all voters in single-seat constituencies and 15.99 percent in proportionally represented multiple-seat constituencies.
As the opposition, the LDP concentrated mostly on attacking particular policies of the DPJ administration. Now that it has become a governing party, this approach won't work.
The LDP must develop its own policies that follow a consistent thread. If LDP Diet members only try to pursue the interests of particular groups in their constituencies and work out policies to maximize such interests, the lack of consistency in the party's total policy orientation will become clear. The LDP needs to change its tendency of leaving the task of ensuring policy consistency to bureaucrats.
The DPJ's call in 2009 for ending the practice of leaving important matters to bureaucrats and for having politicians initiate policymaking represented a counterproposal to the political style of the LDP. Although the goal was meaningful, DPJ lawmakers lacked the necessary ability to achieve it.
The LDP must now ask itself whether it has such an ability. It is calling for massive investment in public works projects in the name of making the nation resilient to natural disasters. It is possible that this policy will end up showering constituencies with money just to please certain people and organizations with a stake in the projects. But such wasteful, pork-barrel projects would do the nation a disservice in this age of budgetary woes.
It is easy to announce policy ideas, but difficult to implement them. The LDP should realize that if the party tries to ram through its policies, it will face strong resistance from opposition forces, which control a majority of the Upper House.