Democratic Party 'prepares to become governing party'

Democratic Party of Japan President Okada Katsuya recently said, "We stopped calling ourselves an opposition party. From now on we are a party preparing to become a governing party."

Many DPJ lawmakers question this declaration.

"We announced that in the current Diet session, we would spearhead the effort to make 'politics and money' a major issue but broke down when we were criticized for being tainted with dirty money as is the Liberal Democratic Party. If the DPJ comes to terms with the LDP on the issue of pension reform, we will be seen as taking part in rigging with the LDP," said a DPJ member of the House of Representatives said.

A senior LDP politician dismissed DPJ President Okada's call for the DPJ to be called "a party preparing to become a governing party" saying, "They are playing with words." He went on to say, "I am appalled to know that in their 'next cabinet' they call each other 'minister'. I thought there are more important things for them to do. Anyway, it's good for us, the governing party, to see the major opposition party in this state of affairs."

A secretary to a DPJ Dietmember said, "As far as I know, my colleagues think it a shame to call our party a 'party preparing to become a governing party'".

'LDP is no longer our enemy'

Why did the DPJ president declare the "party is preparing to become a governing party"?

In a speech on March 4 in Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture, Okada said, "It is certainly important to keep a watchful eye on the government, but it is even more important to get prepared to grab political power in the next election."

Edano Yukio, the author of the declaration of "becoming a governing party," on his website states, "The DPJ 's role is not to criticize or attack the government and the LDP but to compete with the ruling 'LDP-Komei' bloc. The term 'opposition party' used to be taken to mean being anti-establishment, outside of political power, or a critical force. Opposition parties in the framework that was established in 1955 (when the Liberal and Democratic parties merged to found the present LDP) used to be seen by the public as having raison d'etre in their criticism or attacks on the government and LDP. However, with the introduction of a single-seat constituency system, we chose a political structure in which two major political forces contest for political power."

In short, he is saying that now that we have the single-seat constituency system, it is important to stand on common ground instead of fighting each other, in dealing with issues that have a fundamental bearing on the country's politics, such as the Constitution, foreign policy, and national security.

In his speech on January 30 Edano clearly said, "Our enemy is not the LDP."

DPJ seeks to reach agreement with the LDP on issues of the Constitution and pension system

On the ground, the DPJ's declaration of being "the party preparing to become a governing party" is being put into practice.

On the issue of pension reform, the DPJ has agreed to begin social security reform talks with the ruling Liberal Democratic and Komei parties based on the May 6, 2004 agreement between the three parties. The three parties had agreed to review the entire social security system, including ways to secure social security funds and benefits. Basically, they are in agreement on the need to increase the consumption tax rate in order to financially maintain the system.

Sengoku Yoshito, DPJ Policy Commission chair, on March 13 said, "It may be necessary to increase the rate by about five percentage points" (On a Fuji TV program).

On the issue of the Constitution, Edano Yukio, DPJ representative on the House of Representatives Commission for Research of the Constitution, said: "For an early constitutional revision, the minimum precondition should be to avoid making the constitution an issue in the House of Representives general election (in order to secure a two-thirds majority consensus in the Diet).

On March 11, the LDP, Komei, and DPJ discussed a national referendum law that will provide the procedure for revising the Constitution and moved to propose setting up a consultative body for the three parties to discuss this issue.

This DPJ way of trying to form a consensus on the major political issue with the ruling parties has already been put into practice in the discussion on the Constitution and the pension issue. (end)

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