Japan: New PM Offers Little Change


Original source: Akahata (Japan)

Question is whether the new Cabinet can speak up against US and business world

Prime Minister Kan Naoto on June 8 inaugurated his Cabinet consisting of the Democratic Party of Japan and the People’s New Party. The main players in the latest Japan-U.S. agreement on the relocation of the U.S. Futenma base, including Foreign Minister Okada Katsuya, Defense Minister Kitazawa Toshimi, and Minister in Charge of Okinawa Maehera Seiji, all retained their posts from the previous administration.

The new lineup shows that the Kan Cabinet is planning to push ahead with the implementation of the agreement.

Asked by reporters for a comment on the inauguration of the new Cabinet, Japanese Communist Party Secretariat Head Ichida Tadayoshi stated, “Whoever may make up the Cabinet, the question is whether or not it can boldly speak up against the United States and large corporations in the interests of the general public. If not, it can neither improve the national economy nor people’s living conditions.”

Ichida criticized the new Cabinet for already thinking of having discussions on an increase in the consumption tax and more tax breaks for large companies.

The other day, new Secretary General of the DPJ Edano Yukio said that Ozawa Ichiro accepted his political responsibility for the fall in support for the DPJ to a certain extent by stepping down from his post as secretary general. However, it is the DPJ itself that has been refusing to summon Ozawa as a sworn witness before the Diet.

Pointing out the lack of internal critique within the DPJ, Ichida stated, “Without digging out the whole truth regarding allegations of corruption in the Diet, Kan cannot claim to represent ‘clean politics’ free from money scandals.”

Ichida further pointed out that Kan formed a cabinet that will firmly maintain the recent Japan-U.S. agreement that will impose on Okinawans another military base. He said, “It is essential to take up these issues in Diet plenary sessions and budget committee meetings of both Houses and clarify all the issues so that voters can more accurately vote as informed citizens in the upcoming Upper House election.”

He learns nothing from Hatoyama failings: Shii on Kan’s policy speech

Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo harshly criticized the new Prime Minister for his refusal to learn lessons from the causes of the previous government’s failure, saying, “Since the previous Hatoyama government was forced to resign due to the anger of the general public, the new government should start its political efforts based on remorse for the failure. However, I found that Prime Minister Kan refuses to address the causes of the previous administration’s demise.” Shii said this on June 11 in a press conference held in the Diet Building after Prime Minister Kan’s policy speech.

Regarding the issue of the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station, Shii pointed out that Kan is taking a ‘‘so what’’ attitude toward strong public anger concerning the DPJ government’s stand on this issue and that he will stand by the Japan-U.S. agreement in which Japan and the U.S. government confirmed the intention to build a large replacement facility in the Henoko-saki area. On the issue of ‘‘politics and money,’’ Shii denounced Kan for his attempt to bring the scandal to a close on the grounds that the former prime minister has stepped down. The chair added that Kan totally failed to mention such issues as the removal of the discriminative health insurance system for elderly people aged 75 and older or the fundamental reform of the Worker Dispatch Law.

The Chair’s comments in the question and answer session are as follows.

Overall impression

The DPJ has been repeatedly chanting its slogan ‘‘putting people’s livelihoods first.’’ However, I was shocked to find that this phrase never appeared in his policy speech. I feel this is indicative of the new government’s direction of moving further away from public interest.

Consumption Tax

Prime Minister Kan called for a national debate that includes both ruling and opposition parties. The Prime Minister urged the Liberal Democratic Party to also join the discussion on a bill concerning the responsibility to restore fiscal health presented by the LDP to the Diet. The Bill clearly states that an increase in the consumption tax rate in the future is required, so there is the probability that we will see a coalition between the DPJ and the LDP demanding for a consumption tax hike.

Main characteristics of the new government

There are a variety of reasons for the failure of the previous government including the issue of the relocation of U.S. Futenma Air Station, “politics and money” corruption allegations, and matters concerning people’s livelihoods. Among them, what I think the DPJ government should realize is that it will reach an impasse if it maintains the position of subservience to the United States.

Rather than learning the lesson taught by public outrage, the Prime Minister has pledged his loyalty to the United States by promising that he will strictly follow the Japan-U.S. agreement. I am also concerned about the possibility that the government is moving in the direction of meeting the demands of financial circles to raise the consumption tax rate and further reduce corporate taxes.

Incoming Japanese PM Kan Naoto. (Photo by Kenji-Baptiste OIKAWA, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

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