SAITO Hiroshi

Board of Councilors

Among the factors that account for the feeling of being closed in that is sweeping the whole public mood today is the non-transparency of Japanese politics. It is true that a transfer of the reins of power from the minority Socialist Party head to the top-ruling Liberal Democratic Party head in early January did help peel away the facade of unnaturalness that stemmed from the awkward tripartite coalition government, but it must be admitted that a problem of major concern lurks behind the fact that not a single election was called to seek a mandate from the people prior to that time, while the nation has had four prime ministers in rapid succession, occasioned largely by new splits and alliances of political groupings which added significantly to the non-transparency of the political process. This seemingly never-ending process of political opacity as characterized by the rotating governing parties and the revolving-door prime ministership is indeed to blame for this bottled-up feeling of dissatisfaction which pervades the entire country.

We hear recently a fair number of the National Diet members griping about the switch they agreed to make to the single-seat constituency system from the multi-seat district system. They have once tried intensely to enact the single-seat district system with such single-minded concentration that it was considered by some as almost akin to political reform itself, and when the new system was finally cleared through the Diet by their own hand as an outright majority, expectations rose high that a general election would be held any time soon. To this day, the election has yet to be held, however. Not only that, two of the coalition partners - the Social Democratic Party and the New Party Sakigake - are preoccupied with hanging onto office by dawdling over the election issue, while some of the Liberal Democratic Party members do appear to hope that the dissolution of the Lower House will take place after this fall. One is left with an impression that these lawmakers are quite negative in their attitude toward an early election. Admittedly, shepherding through the budget for fiscal 1996 may well be an inevitable process for ensuring economic recovery. However, it cannot be denied that any ploy to put off the election until after the fall this year or, in an extreme scenario, until the terms of office of the current Lower House members expire in the summer of next year falls little short of a manifestation of their undue pursuit of party politics and party interests first and foremost, and their unwillingness to seek an all-important mandate from the people.

The members of the National Diet ought to earn our respect because they are the "elite" elected by popular vote. If the lawmakers are allowed to engage in the kind of politics not sufficiently persuasive to the people because of their procrastination on the holding of an election, such politics could hardly be called democratic.

Since the next general election will obviously be the first one under the revised electoral system, it is difficult to predict the outcome, let alone anticipate results satisfactory to both the electorate and the elected. Nevertheless, whatever the result but so long as it reflects the will of the people, the general election should go a long way in helping break out of the pent-up feeling of frustration that is enveloping our country. This is the reasoning behind our call for the earliest possible dissolution and election of the Lower House.

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