Japanese media call for a strong government

AFP, TOKYO

Mon, Nov 19, 2012 - Page 4

Japan needs a strong government to handle rows with China and South Korea as the world is losing patience with the county’s revolving door politics, a major daily said yesterday ahead of next month’s polls.

After six prime ministers in as many years, local media are hoping for the emergence of a stable government after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda called snap elections for Dec. 16, which are widely expected to end his center-left party’s three years in power.

The influential Asahi Shimbun said such instability would not help Japan resolve diplomatic problems such as its territorial rows with China, South Korea and Russia.

The Asahi said the rest of the world was not following the election so “fervently” as it did in 2009 when the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) toppled the long-ruling conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

“It may be possibly because they think that a next government will be unstable in any way with yet another short-lived prime minister,” the Asahi’s commentary said. “Even in China, it is often heard saying recently: ‘It is impossible to pursue serious diplomacy with Japan.’”

Tokyo and Beijing are locked in a row over the sovereignty of an archipelago in the East China Sea, while Japan and South Korea are in dispute over who owns a pair of islands in waters between the two countries.

Japan also has a longstanding dispute with Russia over the Kuril Islands.

“If we don’t have a stable, strong government on our side, [other] territorial issues with Russia and South Korea as well as the problem of [US] military bases on Okinawa cannot find a way out,” the Asahi said.

The mass-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun blamed the Democratic Party’s “numerous cases of mismanagement” on its insistence on ending bureaucrats’ decades-long control over policy making.

“As a result, bureaucrats have passively waited for orders while important information failed to reach politicians,” the conservative daily said in an editorial.

The Yomuri noted that the DPJ had managed to achieve only 30 percent of the 173 policy measures it pledged before taking power with promises to put emphasis on people’s well-being.

The DPJ’s approval rating has dipped from 75 percent when Yukio Hatoyama served as prime minister in 2009, to 24 percent as Noda currently reigns as its third prime minister, according to the daily’s polls.

Japan’s next government will have “many things to do” to help refloat the domestic economy by dragging it out of deflation and stopping a decline in its international competitiveness, the Nikkei Shimbun said.

In related developments, outspoken leaders from Japan’s two biggest cities formed a national political party on Saturday, seeking to become “a third force” to lure undecided voters and challenge the country’s two biggest parties.

Nationalist Shintaro Ishihara, who resigned as Tokyo governor to create his own party this week, said he is scrapping his four-day-old group to join the Japan Restoration Party formed in September by the young and brash mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto.

“This country is going to fall apart if we don’t act now,” Ishihara told Saturday’s party convention held in Osaka, announcing the merger of his party and Hashimoto’s. “I’ve decided to ignore small differences to join hands on common ground. This will be my last service for the country.”

Apparently, Ishihara made concessions to Hashimoto’s policy supporting phase-out of nuclear energy and participating in the US-led trans-Pacific trade block. The timing of the election could pre-empt moves by more conservative challengers to build enough electoral support.

Ishihara, 80, now heads the Japan Restoration Party, replacing Hashimoto, who now serves in the No. 2 post. Hashimoto, 43, has said he will remain mayor of Osaka and not run in the election. On Saturday, he announced backing 47 candidates to run in the polls.

“We’ll claw our way through the election battle — not just to win seats, but to change the root of this country,” Hashimoto told a televised party convention. “We will change all forces that try to defend the status quo.”

Additional reporting by AP