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Friday, Jan. 18, 2008

Take bold steps and listen to public, Fukuda advises LDP


Staff writer

The Liberal Democratic Party is facing its biggest crisis since it was founded in 1955, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said Thursday.

"I think (the party's members) acutely feel the people's distrust in politics, the people's distrust in the LDP, every day," Fukuda said in Tokyo at the party's annual convention. "Beginning with the pension issue, the public is indignant over politics and the administration."

The LDP-led ruling bloc has been hit by scandals and fiascoes that led to its loss of the Upper House in July. Faced with a split Diet, Fukuda is widely expected to dissolve the Lower House and call an election this year.

Unlike his hawkish predecessor, Shinzo Abe, who pushed revising the pacifist Constitution as his key goal, Fukuda stressed that the LDP must change and put itself in the public's place.

"What we must do is take a bold step and change systems that are making the public unhappy or (systems) that are unnecessary or inconvenient," Fukuda said. "The LDP's major task is to exert strong leadership and (prevent politics and the administration) from doing a sloppy job on behalf of the public."

Fukuda did not say when the next general election will be held. Instead, his speech focused on issues that relate closely to people's lives, warning that support for the LDP will fade if it "cannot meet the public's expectations."

Under Fukuda, the LDP appears to be shifting away from its hawkish tone.

With Abe in charge, the party pushed for such legislation as revising the Fundamental Law of Education to instill a sense of patriotism among schoolchildren and a bill to establish a legal framework for a referendum on changing the Constitution.

The LDP's 2008 activity guideline, adopted at the convention, focuses mainly on putting forth policies that will address public anxiety and discontent, like working to resolve the pension record-keeping fiasco.

Under "important policies" for 2008, the guideline states that the LDP will correct the economic "disparities" among citizens and between urban and local areas, implementing "policies so that the people and regions do not feel unfairness." It also stresses the need to rebuild basic systems for child-rearing, the disabled, medical treatment and nursing care.

Last year's guideline under Abe, on the other hand, avoided using the term "disparity," mentioning only that the LDP would push for a society that affords second chances to those who fail in business. It also stressed the need to build "a beautiful country" — Abe's nationalistic pet phrase — by "respecting our nation's traditions and culture."

The preamble to this year's guideline includes a phrase encouraging LDP members to continue visiting Yasukuni Shrine — a frequent source of conflict with China and South Korea. However, Fukuda made no mention of Yasukuni in his speech. In September, when he was chosen to succeed Abe, he declared he would not visit the shrine.

On revising the Constitution, the guideline only stipulates that the party will "stir up a national discussion toward establishing a new Constitution."



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The Japan Times

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