Questioning in both houses of the Diet has concluded following Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's speech outlining his national policies.
The debate centered on economic stimulus measures. However, the Prime Minister did not get into the specifics of his proposed income tax cut. Meanwhile, the opposition parties competed with each other in haphazardly scoring rhetorical points. As a result, the debate lacked depth.
No Explanation of the Tax Cut Proposal
Prime Minister Kishida tried to explain why he had not mentioned "income tax cuts" in his speech. "I felt obliged to refrain from talking about the specific direction the government would take," he said. "We should refrain from discussing the situation until formal consideration of concrete measures has begun among the ruling parties."
However, with questions being raised about things such as the effectiveness of income tax cuts, we would have expected the Prime Minister to explain the details of the government's proposals in an easy-to-understand fashion.
At the same time, opposition parties cannot gain credibility by simply continuing to curry favor with the public.
For example, the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP) called for the handing out of "inflation allowances." Nippon Ishin no Kai proposed a reduction in social insurance fees, while the Democratic Party for the People favored wide-ranging tax cuts, including income taxes and the consumption tax. Meanwhile, the Japan Communist Party demanded a reduction in the consumption tax rate.
All these positions were clear attempts to win popularity.
Missing Debate on Core Interests of the Nation
The world is in crisis. Israel is fighting with the Islamic fundamentalist organization Hamas, and Russia is continuing its invasion of Ukraine. Yet, there was no in-depth debate on the impact of these issues on the region surrounding Japan.
China is increasing military pressure with an eye to annexing Taiwan. North Korea is obsessed with developing nuclear weapons and missiles. It goes without saying that the Diet should be focused on the fundamental strengthening of the nation's defense capabilities.
Mixed Messages on Constitutional Reform
Nippon Ishin no Kai representative Nobuyuki Baba sought to pin down the Prime Minister about constitutional reform. He brought up PM Kishida's pledge to achieve constitutional reform before his current term as ruling Liberal Democratic Party president expires in September 2024. Then he pressed Kishida on whether he would step aside for reelection as LDP president if he failed to see the constitution amended.
Prime Minister Kishida said in his policy speech that he expected discussions would result in "actual draft articles." Unfortunately, however, the LDP's secretary-general in the Upper House, Hiroshige Seko, did not even mention constitutional reform.
Mr Seko went so far as to complain about the Prime Minister's words and public pledge. "I can't help but feel that they reflect some kind of weakness," Seko said.
The words politicians choose are extremely important. Exactly for that reason, Seko should have expressed his own determination to see constitutional reform become a reality.
Masayo Tanabu declared that the "Cabinet should not interfere." Tanabu is secretary-general of the CDP's Upper House caucus, and his party strongly opposes constitutional reform.
Nevertheless, Kishida's call for debate in the Diet is not a violation of the separation of powers for the three branches of government. It merely represents a lack of insight. The Prime Minister must demonstrate leadership in his role as LDP president if he expects to achieve constitutional reform.
(Read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun