Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Administration Will Need to Calibrate Change

It's more and more likely that there will be a transfer of political power after the 45th House of Repesentatives election on Aug. 30. I don't think the Aso administration has the strength to avoid the loss of power or the destruction of the coalition between the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito Party. The public is eager to turn against Prime Minister Taro Aso and his ruling coalition. "Let's give the Democratic Party of Japan a chance to run the government" goes the general thinking. And there's really only a very small chance that this public sentiment will change a lot between now and Aug. 30.

One of the big reasons that the LDP could hold onto power for more than 50 years is that there was never a large bloc of people who hated the party. The public didn't dislike the LDP -- that's an important asset for a leader. The reason for this lack of hatred was that the LDP put value on moderation. There was a quality in the old LDP that seemed to dislike extremism of any sort and value the middle. This is why the party never inspired the hatred of the people.

But now, influenced by American extremism, the LDP is more likely to run to the extreme end of an issue. Moreover, it is no longer as able as it once was to put the brakes on extreme moves and get back to the middle. Its ability to find a balance has declined.

It's quite likely that the Aug. 30 elections will result in a coalition government of the DPJ, the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party. It's also possible that the DPJ will secure a majority on its own. If it does this, then the coalition will be a coalition in name only, with the DPJ calling the shots.

The main factor for the DPJ's success in responding to the people will be its ability to navigate a moderate path. Right after a new party comes to power, there's a tendency in politics for the new group to rush for results. The mass media will fuel that tendency by setting high expectations. It's important for the new political power to avoid this trap and set out on a path of moderated change. The wise path is to avoid sudden changes.

The top priority of the new administration will be to revive the economy. The constant flow of bankruptcies has to be stemmed. Rising unemployment has to be stopped. The new administration must quickly enact policies to stabilize people's lives and boost the corporate economy, and it will need the cooperation of economic leaders and bureaucrats. It will need to be sure that it has the support of the people. To do that, the new administration must clearly show the people that it has embraced moderation.