PM Abe Needs Action Not Words

PM Shinzo Abe Speaks With Media Tuesday

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on July 3 repeatedly pledged to learn from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s crushing defeat in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly election on the previous day.
“An extremely severe judgment was rendered by the people of Tokyo. We have to seriously accept it as a strict rebuke of the LDP and deeply reflect (on our acts and remarks),” said Abe, who is also the LDP president, at the prime minister’s office.
The question is what kind of lessons he will glean from the bitter political setback and how he will actually change his behavior.
Abe is said to be considering reshuffling his Cabinet, apparently in hopes of revitalizing his political leadership, which has taken a massive hit from the election results.
But a simple change in the Cabinet lineup is not what the public wants to see.
Abe has shown a tendency to make a sharp distinction between friend and foe and pay little attention to dissenting voices. He has also pushed through his policy initiatives forcefully by using the ruling coalition’s overwhelming majority in both chambers of the Diet.
The core challenge confronting Abe is whether he can really do serious soul-searching over his high-handed political approach and mend his ways.
During Diet sessions, Abe has heaped praise on opposition parties willing to work with his government while mounting scathing verbal attacks on opposition parties critical of his administration.
He has also utilized news media sympathetic to his views and opinions as channels to communicate his messages to the public.
In campaigning for the metropolitan assembly poll, both Abe and LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai pinned the blame on the party's uphill battle on media coverage of political scandals and gaffes.
Abe’s haughty refusal to listen to critics and dissenters in an arrogant attitude apparently driven by his dominant political power has also sapped the LDP’s own vigor.
During the four and a half years since his return to power, Abe has secured a tight grip over the party’s decisions on its official candidates for elections, key personnel appointments and distribution of political funds. Many LDP lawmakers now meekly kowtow to Abe’s leadership.
The LDP readily accepted a proposal to change the party rules to allow its president to serve up to three three-year terms for a total of nine years. This is another sign of the party being under Abe’s thumb.
The basic rules of democracy require that decisions be made by a majority vote in the end. But they also demand that the voices of the minority should also be heard for exhaustive debate on policy issues.
Abe should remember this principle and abandon his self-righteous refusal to heed dissenting voices.
In response to the LDP’s defeat in the Tokyo poll, the Abe administration is showing an inclination to allow Diet committees to hold deliberations while the Diet itself is not in session.
We welcome the move, but simply allowing out-of-session committee meetings will not be enough.
The Abe Cabinet should swiftly convene an extraordinary Diet session in response to opposition parties’ demand based on Article 53 of the Constitution.
Article 53 states that the Cabinet must convene such a session when “a quarter or more of the total members of either House makes the demand.”
This is a provision to guarantee minority groups’ right to make their voices heard at the Diet.
If Abe is serious about soul-searching, he should start by observing this constitutional provision.
Redressing mistakes made by the administrative branch of the government is an important responsibility of the legislature.
There should be no difference between ruling and opposition parties in commitment to this duty.
We urge LDP lawmakers to demonstrate their pride as the representatives of the people by calling on the prime minister to convene an extraordinary session.
In an Asahi Shimbun exit poll conducted during the July 2 election, 71 percent of the respondents said the administration’s response to the political scandal involving the Kake Educational Institution, a school operator with a link to Abe, has been “inappropriate.”
If Abe fails to match his words about soul-searching with concrete and convincing actions, public support for his administration will further wane.


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