The Liberal Democratic Party presidential election campaign officially kicked off Sept. 14. With five members announcing their candidacies, the race is expected to be a confused one.
The Democratic Party of Japan-led administration is facing difficulties and a Lower House election is in the cards. As things now stand, the winner of the LDP race may become prime minister. Apparently, such thinking prompted so many candidates to enter the race.
If so, that is all the more reason why the LDP presidential election must not turn into a popularity contest to choose “a poster boy” for the Lower House election.
What are the problems with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s administration? How do the candidates intend to change Japan? What we want to hear is their determination and visions to lead the nation.
However, we have received no satisfactory answers from the candidates’ news conferences and their pledges.
Take, for example, the integrated reform of the tax and social security systems.
All five candidates say they will stand by the three-party agreement among the DPJ, LDP and New Komeito. That’s fine. But what answers do they have for such pending problems as how to create sustainable pension programs and health-care systems for elderly people?
There is no time to talk passionately about expanding public works projects under the pretext of “reinforcing national land” without squarely addressing those issues.
Their nuclear power and energy policies are also ambiguous.
The five candidates say they will promote renewable energies and decide what to do with nuclear power generation depending on the situation. But with such rhetoric, they cannot evade criticism that they are waiting for anti-nuclear public opinion to subside and intend to maintain nuclear power generation. Instead of dodging the issue, they should talk about it clearly.
Another concern is security policies. All five candidates say Japan should be allowed to exercise its right to collective self-defense. Their assertion is in line with LDP policy, but it is a problem that leads to a change in Japan’s security policy based on its pacifist Constitution.
What we find disturbing are the candidates’ insensitive comments on territory and historical issues.
Former LDP policy chief Shigeru Ishiba, LDP Secretary-General Nobuteru Ishihara and former Prime Minister Shintaro Abe are calling for Japan to build such facilities as a lighthouse and a shelter port on the nationalized Senkaku Islands to strengthen Japanese control.
Abe also indicated his idea of reviewing the 1993 statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono that expressed “apologies and remorse” to the wartime comfort women.
Japan’s relations with China and South Korea have been strained over the problems of the Senkaku and Takeshima islands, respectively. How can Japan expect to build stable relations with the neighboring countries by inflating those issues?
The rebuilding of Japanese society and economy is not an easy task. In such a situation, if the LDP presidential election candidates try to stir nationalism to divert public attention and stress their differences with the DPJ, we deem such attitude unfitting.
Japan does not need such “brave” statements from Japanese leaders. What we need are leaders who squarely face the mountain of pending problems and tenaciously work to resolve them.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 14
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