Drastic political reforms are needed, including major revisions of national election systems, to prevent a recurrence of the bickering and inaction following the Great East Japan Earthquake, a panel commissioned by The Asahi Shimbun recommended.
The panel of scholars, dubbed Nippon Mae-e Iinkai (Japan move forward committee), proposed that a committee independent of the Diet be established to consider how to make those changes.
It also recommended that consideration be given to lowering the voting age, currently at 20, to 18 for national elections and 16 for local elections to show young people that they have a stake in the system.
In addition to their sluggish response to the March 11 natural disasters and the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, politicians also showed they were more interested in replacing the prime minister than implementing measures to help disaster victims, the panel said.
Faced with such political realities, panel members agreed that something had to be done to revitalize the political sector to not only push forward rebuilding after the disasters, but also for the long-term rejuvenation of Japan.
Many issues facing the political world need to be addressed, including correcting the disproportionate value of a vote due to population shifts as well as more clearly defining the roles of the two chambers of the Diet.
However, any revisions will not likely make much progress if the decisions are left to lawmakers chosen under the present electoral systems.
For that reason, the panel recommends the establishment of a third-party committee, consisting of specialists and which can be trusted by society because of its independence from the Diet.
One model the panel has in mind is the advisory panel on administrative reform that set the course in the 1980s for privatization of three public corporations, including Japanese National Railways.
The panel argues that one topic that should be discussed in the committee is lowering the voting age to encourage young people to participate in politics. Panel members argued that in order to review the various systems with an eye toward the future it would be important for younger generations to think about politics as active voters.
Such changes would lead parties and lawmakers to begin thinking about the interests of young people as well as to implement policies from a long-term perspective.
The panel also calls for fundamental discussion on such wide-ranging topics as improving the quality of politicians and introducing a system for a national referendum.
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