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Wednesday, June 21, 2000

GOOD OR EVIL COALITION?

Vote with criteria in mind: Hosokawa


Staff writer

Voters should cast their ballots in Sunday's election by asking themselves if the government has steered Japan in a desirable direction and whether it has reinforced the people's trust in politics, former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa says.

Hosokawa said in a recent interview that campaign pledges are not sufficiently credible to judge the parties on because they always say things that appeal to the voters' ears and then do not live up to them.

"What has the (Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito-New Conservative Party) coalition government achieved in terms of fiscal and monetary policy, diplomacy, social welfare and education?" asked Hosokawa, who is also special adviser to The Japan Times. "Based on answers to those questions, people should decide whether the current government should stay in power."

He believes the current triumvirate has not functioned well.

"I'm concerned about the fact that the coalition government has pursued 'big government' policies by increasing the amount of public works projects and charging the debts to the younger generation's account," he said, pointing to the nation's cash-strapped coffers.

The ruling bloc has failed to carry out deregulation, and Japan's basic stance on diplomacy and security policy is still obscure, Hosokawa said.

Denouncing the bloc as lacking vision, Hosokawa said the three parties are cooperating with each other just to stay in power.

"Since the LDP failed to keep a majority in the Upper House (in the 1998 election), it turned to New Komeito for help. New Komeito also approached the LDP to protect itself from being attacked by the LDP. It's merely an alliance to protect themselves," he charged.

However, Hosokawa, who belonged to the Democratic Party of Japan — the largest opposition party — when he retired from politics in May 1998, also criticized his former colleague, DPJ chief Yukio Hatoyama, for lacking a strategy and failing to make the DPJ attractive to voters.

In particular, regarding Hatoyama's recent remarks that the DPJ will not cooperate with the Japanese Communist Party to establish a coalition government even if the LDP fails to capture a majority in the June 25 election, Hosokawa said Hatoyama should not have ruled out such an alliance.

"If I were in his shoes, I would have spoken differently. There are many ways the two parties can cooperate. For example, the JCP can still be part of the ruling bloc and cooperate without joining the Cabinet," he said, adding that the JCP is changing.

"The whole world is changing, and I think the current JCP is a party worth negotiating with over a possible alliance," he said.

While the DPJ's prospects of capturing a majority in the lower chamber by itself are bleak, its biggest mistake would be failing to persuade the people that it can help wrest power from the current coalition after the election, Hosokawa said.

"If people think (the DPJ) can make no change and the current tripartite government will continue to rule, voter turnout will be low.

"The opposition parties need to make politics as dramatic as possible and make people expect there will be new developments if they go to the polls," said Hosokawa, recalling the time when the Japan New Party, which he founded, received strong public support in the 1993 Lower House election.

The victory of the opposition parties, including the Japan New Party, eventually led to the end of the LDP's one-party rule, which had lasted for 38 years.

Hosokawa predicted that Japan will continue to be ruled by a coalition because the LDP is unlikely to regain a majority in both houses for years to come. But he added that being ruled by a coalition is not necessarily a bad thing.

"There are good coalitions and evil ones," he said. According to Hosokawa, a good coalition is one in which each participating party contributes a wide range of policy ideas, builds consensus and works to achieve those policies.

Drastic policies that are regarded as difficult to carry out may be realized if one of the coalition insists on promoting them, he said.

But an evil coalition places difficult issues on the back-burner and tries to shore up the economy simply by increasing public spending, Hosokawa said, adding, "The kind of coalition government that will be formed after the election will greatly influence the future course of Japanese politics."



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