After three years in power, the Democratic Party of Japan has effectively put an end to its own chapter as the ruling party.
In response to criticism that it is incapable of making decisions on key policy issues, the DPJ moved to break a Diet impasse and consequently paid too heavy a price to clinch a deal on tax bill amendments with main opposition Liberal Democratic Party and smaller New Komeito.
Let us recall what happened in the Lower House election in 2009. Calling for regime change, the DPJ entered the race with an array of election pledges, including guaranteed minimum pension benefits, which it said represented the party's commitment to the public. And it won the election.
The DPJ's victory ushered in historic regime change after decades of near-uninterrupted rule by the LDP and calls by the main parties for a change of government.
In the next election, the ruling party was to ask voters if they are satisfied with its accomplishments.
The LDP, its main rival, in turn was to suggest alternatives to the government's policies as well as offering its own election pledges to wrest power from the governing party.
What the DPJ ended up doing was to ditch its campaign manifesto, the very key to allowing a cycle of regime change.
Campaign manifestoes are not absolute, and politics is an uncertain business.
Things cannot move on without amending or tracking back to some extent under certain circumstances.
The DPJ did not raise the issue of a consumption tax hike in the last Lower House election. Even so, it decided to raise the tax, now at 5 percent, despite its earlier promise not to increase it.
The Noda administration says its priority is to protect the lives of the public.
But it shelved social security reform--a crucial element in people's lives--not out of any judgment of policy priorities, but to extract concessions from the LDP and New Komeito over amending tax-related bills.
The DPJ's actions damaged the legitimacy of regime change based on campaign manifestoes and the public's faith in politics.
This was due to the DPJ administration’s ineptitude during its three years in power.
With the Upper House controlled by the opposition camp, the DPJ was forced to compromise on its election pledges and swallow almost all that the LDP and New Komeito were demanding to help get legislation on a consumption tax rate hike through the Diet.
But it is not my intention here to make a final assessment of the talks on tax bill amendments.
It is a fact that the leaders of the three parties have reached agreement.
The consumption tax hike, along with the restart of idled nuclear reactors and the creation of a new nuclear regulatory body to oversee the nuclear industry, are expected to affect people's lives for many years to come.
A body set up in the Diet will be tasked with crafting specific measures to overhaul the social security system with the rise in tax revenues after the consumption tax rate is raised.
In order to make the consumption tax hike meaningful, Japan needs to rebuild its economy amid the debt crisis that is giving headaches to many other advanced countries.
If the heads of the DPJ, the LDP and New Komeito sign an agreement on amending the tax bills, they will not be able to flee from their shared responsibility for what they have collectively decided. They will be bound to honor their decisions and any others they will have to make in the near future.
Takeshi Soga is a political editor of The Asahi Shimbun.
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