Mr. Shinzo Abe's decision to resign as the Prime Minster of Japan must be seen as a failure to implement a clear domestic and foreign policy. Both the Japanese electorate and the Democratic Party of Japan are more interested in resolving systemic national problems from pension system and health care to declining birth rate and depressed economy, rather than just appeasing the United States.
The Liberal Democratic Party, on the other hand, fells that national problems can be tinkered with to placate the public while it can concentrate on creating a more muscular role for Japan in world affairs. However even to achieve its stated objectives the LDP has not conducted a cross-party or national debate on such issues and has, therefore, not been able to formulate a clear policy that could become a rallying point for the party and the nation.
To win an election is not an end in itself but the beginning to realize the promises made to the nation.
Becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack-luster performance of the LDP, the Japanese electorate voted most of its members out of power in the July House of Councilors election giving an unequivocal majority to the DPJ.
Since the last few years the LDP has felt the need to play a more assertive role in international politics and not be bullied by either the United States or China. At the same time, fearing their military might, it has remained on friendly terms with both. With these somewhat paradoxical objectives the LDP has unsuccessfully tried to lobby for a permanent seat for Japan in the UN Security Council. It has also tried to draw a grandiose right-wing agenda, that Mr. Shinzo Abe called 'nation-building, to give more military muscle to Japan. The LDP also wants to renew the U.S.-backed Anti-terrorism Law that would allow the Marine Self Defense Forces to refuel ships patrolling in the Indian Ocean. The DPJ leader, Ichiro Ozawa, is dead against this idea. The project of nation building has prompted the LDP to question the imperatives of the Japanese Constitution, especially Article 9 that eschews the building of a standing army. Instead of affirming its belief in the old constitution and then going on to revise it after a national consensus, the LDP has established an office to propose a 'Draft of a New Constitution.' It has prepared the way for initiating this process by framing the National Referendum Law. Last year the LDP upgraded the Self Defense Forces from an Agency to a Ministry, thus allowing it the freedom to plan its own budget for parliamentary approval. Most of this has been rather hasty and uncalled for.
Mr. Abe's idea of a' beautiful Japan' is nothing more than a reiteration of the pre-war myth of ethnic purity and fails to take cognizance of the forces of globalization that has brought in a large population of foreign workers from China, Korea and Brazil who are now permanent or long-term residents in Japan. He has not been able to establish any clear guidelines to integrate the nearly 2 million registered foreign workers into the Japanese mainstream. The Japanese media too has to wake up to this issue. With the departure of Mr. Abe, the LDP now requires a bold and clear immigration policy that must be first nationally deliberated.
Over the last fifty years Japanese politics has been dominated by the LDP. This has had its salutary effects in creating consensus and helping Japan becoming a developed nation. Its negative aspect has been to stifle a serious debate on important national issues. This has resulted in only superficial reforms where structural reforms were needed. Most of the Japanese systems'from investment procedures, share markets, education, legal system, immigration policy, to defense, maritime laws, territorial claims, medical and nursing system'have failed from time to time. The burgeoning economic gap between the haves and the have-nots has once more brought back the problem of a classed society.
Now, when a clear national and international policy should be debated and agreed upon, the LDP is still speculating how to overcome various systemic ills unilaterally. Most of its policy makers are looking for a silver bullet that would take care of all the problems at once. The social and political reality for the successor to Mr. Abe will remain unchanged. The DPJ will continue to oppose the Anti-terrorism Law, and if the new LDP prime minister fails to get the law renewed, he will be forced to dissolve the lower house and call for general elections, throwing the country once more in a state of political uncertainty. Today Japan urgently needs a courageous leader who can initiate a national debate to evolve a bold new vision that would overhaul the social system and formulate a clear foreign policy.