Thursday, May 21, 2009

The single-seat constituency lie

Takehiko Kambayashi has an excellent piece in The Diplomat explaining why the single-seat constituency system introduced in Japan in 1994 has not led to more vigorous policy debates, but instead has let party leaders solidify power and keep big issues off the table.

Kambayashi provided vital reporting for Mr. Morita's book, Curing Japan's America Addiction.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Obstacles for the DPJ in the Wake of Ozawa's Resignation

(Editor's note: This column was written before the DPJ held its party election on May 16 and chose Yukio Hatoyama as its leader.)

Electing a Leader Democratically
Ichiro Ozawa stepped down as leader of the Democratic Party of Japan on May 11. On the 16th, the party will hold an election for a new leader. This new leader could end up being Japan's next prime minister if the party can win the next election; he would be expected to govern the country. The party needs to reach a consensus on a new leader. The party needs to follow its rules and hold a proper representative election. It should travel the straight and narrow path. While some tried to spread rumors that Prime Minister Aso would dissolve the lower house just as the DPJ was set to hold its election, there is no need to heed those innuendos. The people would not permit such a makeshift approach to retaining political power. The party should find its leader through a representative election while trusting the voters.

A Party on the Run from Democracy
While Ozawa was at the helm of the DPJ, it was as if he were Gulliver surrounded by a bunch of Lilliputians. Everything was left to Ozawa; the other members just followed. It's even said that Ozawa did all the fund-raising. It was a party run by a despot. This was an abnormal situation, but many party members didn't see anything wrong with it.

When one of Ozawa's public secretaries was arrested on March 3 on suspicion of violating laws controlling the use of political funds, party members hesitated to say anything negative about their leader. Frankly, it was because they were scared of him. And this is why confidence in the DPJ began to plummet. People who previously supported the party were disappointed. An election of a new leader needs to also purge the party of these anti-democratic traits and begin building a democratic party free from its previous leader.

Show Us What a DPJ Government Would Do
During Ozawa's reign, there was next to no debate about what sort of policies the party should have. The party ran behind Ozawa to bring about political change without ever explaining what sort of change it would represent. Ozawa strove for political change without a purpose.

The new leader must fix this. He should show the people his party's commitment to governing by explaining where it stands. At the very least, it needs to respond to the following points: First, it needs to distance itself from the already failed neoliberal model; second, it needs to push policies that promote peace; and third, it needs to insulate itself from the money politics of the past.

When the DPJ rids itself of the old Ozawa politics, its path to power will be clear and wide.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Morita: Ozawa has Become DPJ's Putin

Bloomberg reports on the choice of Yukio Hatoyama to lead the Democratic Party of Japan in the coming election and quotes Morita as saying former leader Ozawa is the party's Vladimir Putin.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Big Newspapers Take Absurd Stances against Recession Policies

The employment situation has deteriorated rapidly. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate went up 0.4% from the previous month in March to 4.8%, according to a survey released on May 1 by the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications. The ministry was quoted in the May 1 edition of the Asahi Shimbun as saying, "The speed at which the situation is worsening is like nothing we have seen in the past."

The same ministry released a consumer price index on May 1 that looks at the price of goods, excluding fresh foods. With 2005 serving as the base of 100, prices were down from the previous year 0.1% in March to 100.7. Falling prices are a crucial indicator of a worsening economy.

Friends and associates have related to me how more companies large and small are resorting to layoffs of full-time staff. Corporate bankruptcies are rising rapidly. Many stores are going out of business. The number of people out of work has jumped. The collapse of the economy is a serious issue, and the unemployment problem is especially serious.

The Aso cabinet called its supplementary budget a recessionary measure, but from my point of view, it isn't. It is too small. They put together a supplementary budget of 15 trillion yen only to achieve a 3.3% economic contraction. To get back to zero growth, we'd need an additional 16.5 trillion yen. The Aso cabinet's economic plan is just too small.

Yet the major newspapers are criticizing the plan for its wastefulness. They're making a lot of noise about how the budget is too big. They've twisted reality inside out. It's as if they are out to crush the proposed economic policies. Newspapers, stop getting in the way of our economic recovery! That's my advice.