Prime Minister Naoto Kan survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament on Thursday in the 480-seat lower house by a margin of 293 to 152. He could keep power from reverting to the oppositions, Liberal Democratic Party, Komei Party and Your Party, which sponsored the no-confidence vote. (06/02/2011, The New York Times)
At first, some members (faction) loyal to one of the Democratic Party’s heavyweights, Ozawa Ichiro, appeared to vote for the no-confidence measure. But before the vote Mr. Kan implied that he would step down after fulfilling his political duties, and then many of them decided to vote against it.
Yomiuri Shimbun, the leading newspaper read in Japan, summarized that his winning the vote meant a “life-prolonged treatment” for the Kan Administration. However, I guess it meant rather a “unique choice” left available to the ruling party and the oppositions, and the Japanese people.
If Mr. Kan had lost the vote and dissolved the lower house and held a general election, the Democratic Party might lose and the oppositions might win it, but do they have a stronger leadership than does Mr. Kan to take over him? No! No one knows what will happen “after Kan”.
Should Kan Step Down?
There has been a growing tendency to hope that Mr. Kan will leave the office. But I can’t find the clear reason for his leaving the office and can’t understand the people who request him to leave. Yomiuri Shimbun also agrees to his resignation, and reasons that he hasn’t took the leadership to deal with the Big Earthquake disaster on 11 March, and the nuclear power crisis that the quake caused. However, I can see the reasoning as rather the disguise that the oppositions use to draw him out of the office.
What Kan Faces Now
I reduce the political challenges into three that the Kan Administration should tackle: (1) reconstruction of the disaster area, (2) fiscal reform on tax system and social welfare for the coming aging Japan, (3) negotiation for EPA with EU and TPP with the US. And then I would ask you: could someone else solve the problems? Or help the victims better their situations? First of all, we have to ask these questions for those who agree. It is the voters’ right.
If the Democrats (especially faction closer to Ozawa) requested Mr. Kan to step down, they would have to explain to us who will take over him and what better will happen to us. Moreover, if the oppositions requested that (as Mr.Oshima of the LDP did), and then they promised to cooperate with the Democrats to vote for the government budget, the Democrats would have to ask the explanation for who they think will take the next leadership and what they plan to do for the recovery of the disaster and the large budget deficit. (as Mr.Yamai of the Democratic Party did) That should be the responsibility of the ruling party.
What is a True Leadership?
Kakuei Tanaka, now the legendary ex-prime minister of Japan, the accused in the Lockheed Scandal in the late 1970s, and the father of Makiko Tanaka, Democrat, once said to a reporter for the Mainichi Shimbun, “your job is to accuse me, my job is to be accused by you”, and accepted a dinner with him. This is the episode, an old-timer political pundit, Hisaichi Miyake, introduced on a TV program.
Many blame Mr. Kan for his lack of the leadership, but some years ago, ex-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, whom now many appraise for his strong leadership, was blamed and cast doubt on by the press.
Needless to say, a leader always faces a fierce conflict of interests in his leading party and Parliament, and has hardship in making an important political choice and decision that may have a great influence on many people’s everyday life and status. The larger his party and Parliament, the more time it takes to harmonize the Diet members’ interests and to get his or her to understand and to pass the budget in Parliament. That is what keeps Mr. Kan inactive and slow to tackle the nuclear crisis. Yes, of course, Mr. Kan should have the responsibility to ask the opposites to pass the bills much more quickly.
It is so natural to blame him for his slow action, unclear statements, and weak leadership that might bear a great risk of a political vacuum. In the background of saying that “a leader should be one accused and criticized”, there should be a political responsibility he should take by completing a careful verification and confirmation of whether the decisions he takes a lot of time to make is really consistent to his belief and idea of politics he talks to the people or the pledges he commits. And this is the leadership that we need now and that we ask Mr. Kan to take.
People usually need a leader like “a knight in a white horse”, which means the leader who leads them to the right direction that they really need to take. However, that’s untrue and, we should note that the best friend of decision-making and action in a parliamentary democracy is “time” itself.
It is natural to ask Mr. Kan to take the action much more quickly for the victims who have no house, but his slow decision and action cannot be the critical reason for his resignation. Not only Mr. Kan but all the Diet members should also tackle and solve the problems at the same time. (How many bills have they submitted since the 3.11 crisis? )
Your Platform, Your Trust
Yomiuri Shimbun suggests that the ruling party completely revise the Democratic Party’s platform, what is called “the Manifesto”. We could remember the very hot summer when the Democratic Party won the general election. It was on 30, August in 2009. It won more than half the seats in the House of Representatives.
The reason is not only that people got rid of the political show of alternating Prime Ministers directed and produced by the LDP, but also that the pledges the Democratic Party committed seemed so new and fresh: for example, the restructuring of civil service, monthly allowance to a family with children (¥26,000 per child), cut in gas tax, free tuition for public high schools, banning of temporary work in manufacturing, and halting of increase in sales tax for the next four years and so on. (Democratic Party of Japan; Wikipedia) These had so a large impact on voters that the LDP, ex-ruling party lost the election.
In the background of the birth of the now Kan Administration, there was the irresponsibility of Mr. Hatoyama, ex-Prime Minister (now a harsh critic of Mr. Kan) who promised to draw the US Army Air Forces (USAAF) out of Okinawa, which I think had much more impact on the Japanese people, but later broke this promise and left the office, and of the factions of the Democratic Party who criticize Mr. Kan just as a TV show pundit without regarding themselves as the leaders belonging to the ruling party.
The Manifesto is a promise to the national people. Some of them vote not for the Democratic Party, but for the Manifesto itself. If they would try to revise it, they should ask the will of the people. That’s the way they can keep themselves trustful. Mr. Ozawa insists that he fulfill the Manifesto, and it is worthwhile praising. Politics should be on the base of a “promise to the people” and begins to have the raison deter by fulfilling it. In the case of breaking it, distrust of politics begins to spread among people, and leads them further into the depth of the political chaos, “the merry-go-round Prime Minister”.
Yes, Kan “Kan”.
Politics builds on the basis of the mutual trust between leaders and the people. Some political philosopher might say it is the “contract” between them. That is why the leaders can lead the people. A true leader is not a knight in a white horse, but one who can face harsh critics sincerely. If you request Mr. Kan to step down, you should post what you think to do next beforehand. The press, I think, should also show the public who will be the next possible Prime Minister, and what he or she should do as a good opinion leader in Japan, even though it is so ridiculous.
In conclusion, I support Mr. Kan.Who is better than him as a Prime Minister to tackle the post-crisis political and fiscal problems? Some pundits predict that it will be much more difficult for Mr. Kan to pass the bills because the oppositions will not support him in Parliament. But who can get the support easier? No one can. Only can Kan, right?
Mr. Kan should pass the budget for the reconstruction of the disaster area first and tackle the related problems. That’s the best (or the only) way to avoid a political vacuum in Japan many fear most, and to help better the victims’ health and welfare.