Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hatoyama Cabinet Needs to Ease off Party Manifesto

The Hatoyama Cabinet is in too much of a rush. It would be better off if it slowed down a bit. Soon after the election, I offered advice to the Democratic Party of Japan and Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama in the form of a Shakespeare quote -- "To climb steep hills requires slow pace at first." It seems they weren't listening. Hatoyama appears to be in a hurry. He should calm down, think about what needs to be done, decide on the proper policies, then go to work. By rushing, he comes off as authoritarian.

The Hatoyama Cabinet should stand by two documents: The three-party coalition pact and the DPJ manifesto. Many people don't understand the difference between the two. I'll start from the conclusion. The Hatoyama Cabinet should give top priority to the coalition pact signed on September 9 by Hatoyama-san for the DPJ, Fukushima-san for the Social Democratic Party and Kamei-san for the People's New Party. This is how the Hatoyama administration formed its coalition with the two smaller parties.

However, some of Hatoyama's key cabinet ministers seem to ignore this pact while pushing the DPJ manifesto as the top priority. This is a mistake. If the DPJ is giving top priority to its manifesto, the three-party pact is rendered meaningless. In that case, it should have chosen to rule alone. Since the Hatoyama administration has chosen to form a coalition with the Socialists and the People's New Party, it should honor the three-party pact first and the manifesto second.

One man pushing the manifesto is 77-year-old Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii. This is his argument as quoted in the September 29 morning edition of the Mainichi Shinbun: "The DPJ won the lower house election because of overall support for its public pledges. There are probably discussions to have on various policies, but we mustn't keep adjusting our policies according to public opinion, or trust in the party will drop."

Fujii's argument just doesn't hold up. A lot of the DPJ's support came from people who wanted to vote against the LDP more than anything else. Opinion polls show barely 10% of DPJ supporters said they based their votes on the manifesto. Fujii has gone overboard. At a time when we need our elder statesmen to be flexible, Fujii's "executive decisiveness" is a bit much. He should know that a hardened line on the manifesto will lead to the collapse of the coalition. Fujii should put the needs of his nation ahead of concerns about trust in his party. A strict belief in the manifesto is a dangerous stance.