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Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009

PARTY POWERS

Down in polls, Aso says only LDP can provide security


Staff writer

The Liberal Democratic Party is the only political party that has the ability to protect the Japanese people, claimed Prime Minister Taro Aso, who is campaigning furiously ahead of the Aug. 30 election.

News photo
Making his case: Prime Minister Taro Aso speaks at LDP headquarters in Tokyo on Monday. SATOKO KAWSAKI PHOTO

"The LDP is the only party that has the sense of responsibility and ability to protect Japan, to protect the lives of the people," Aso said in a group interview Monday. "My vision of Japan is a safe society with vitality, (to create a society in which) the children can dream, the youth can have hope and the elderly can feel safe."

With the LDP-New Komeito ruling bloc trailing in the polls, there is a strong possibility it will lose to the Democratic Party of Japan.

Aso has been under fire for his verbal gaffes and policy flip-flops. And until recently, some key LDP lawmakers, including former LDP Secretaries General Hidenao Nakagawa and Tsutomu Takebe, were trying to take him down, creating a sharp divide within the party.

Aso, also president of the LDP, acknowledged that the drop in public support was partly triggered by his contentious statements.

"I think the main reason why public support dropped was because of my series of verbal gaffes and the lack of party unity," he said. "I think that is why LDP supporters and voters lost their trust in the LDP."

In an attempt to show that the DPJ lacks leadership, Aso has been attacking its platform as "haphazard policies without financial backing."

He criticized the DPJ for not being able to come up with security policies in line with the Social Democratic Party and Kokumin Shinto (People's New Party), which are expected to form a coalition if they win the election.

The DPJ, whose lawmakers range from liberals to conservatives, is already having trouble coming up with unified foreign and national security policies.

Compounding that headache are differences in the possible coalition. For example, the DPJ supports the dispatch of the Maritime Self-Defense Force to Somalia to fight pirates, while the SDP does not.

"It is the ruling bloc's responsibility to consider Japan's security issues and from what I see, I don't think that the DPJ and SDP are in agreement," Aso said. "I think they will have a difficult time managing the government without being able to unify their opinion on security, which is a country's most fundamental issue."

Aso also expressed his disapproval of DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama's willingness to give local-level suffrage to foreign nationals with permanent residency.

"Hatoyama says that Japan is not a country just for Japanese, but if that is the case, then whose country is it for?" Aso asked. "Honestly speaking, this isn't something that will be resolved by just granting (foreigners) suffrage and it is likely that there will be many more difficult problems."

While many lawmakers in the DPJ and New Komeito are for granting foreigners the right to vote in local elections, many conservative LDP members have expressed strong reluctance.

The prime minister added that the number of descendants of Koreans who lived in Japan before the war and were forced to take Japanese nationality at that time is declining and that "we must consider various things like whether (suffrage for foreigners) is even necessary."


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