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HOME  > Past issues  > 2013 December 25 - 2014 January 7  > Past year under Abe Cabinet
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2013 December 25 - 2014 January 7 TOP3 [POLITICS]

Past year under Abe Cabinet

December 24-26, 2013

December 26, 2013 marked the first anniversary of the inauguration of the second Abe Cabinet. Akahata on December 24-26 took a look back over the past year of his government.

Akahata reporters, ahead of this feature article, interviewed passersby in the busiest business district in Tokyo about the state secrets protection law which the ruling parties had forcibly enacted in disregard of public opinion and about the consumption tax rate which will increase from the current 5% to 8% in April.

Increasing public criticism

Angry at the forcible enactment of the secrecy law, a woman said, “The LDP was finally reduced to being an opposition party, so I thought it would become a little humble, but it wasn’t like that at all.” A man proclaiming himself as a conservative said, “My assessment toward the Abe Cabinet has changed because its strong-arm approach went too far.” A man who is an LDP member said, “The present LDP must be insane. It bulldozed through such a bad legislation, the secrets law.” This man said he is going to renounce his LDP membership. A man who supported the Abe government said, “The LDP is eager to ram through legislation it didn’t call for at the time of the general election. The party now displays an arrogant attitude because it occupies a majority force in both chambers of the Diet.

As for the tax hike, a man in his 40s said, “If things go on like this, an increase in tax revenues will be used only for the benefit of large corporations and to fund large public works projects.” A 29-year-old man said, “Heavier taxes will make us refrain from buying goods.”

A JNN Network survey shows that the disapproval rating for the Abe Cabinet in December was 44.4%, up 14.3 points from the previous month. The percentage of people who answered that the Diet discussion over the secrecy law was “insufficient” reached a whopping 85%.

Other opinion polls also display a double-digit drop in approval ratings for the Abe administration, falling to a new record low one after another.

An FNN Network surveyed expectations for economic recovery through the “Abenomics” financial scheme. As a result, 55.6% answered they “do not expect” benefits from Abe’s economic policy while 38.0% said they do which drastically fell from the 65.5% in April. A sense of disappointment with Abenomics has increased among the general public.

Akahata reporters interviewed self-employed business operators as well.

A seafood wholesaler said, “The weak yen caused a rise in commodity prices and decreased our profits. I have no choice but increase prices because the sales tax will go up. I will have more difficulties in maintaining my business.” The owner of a small company who is an LDP member said, “PM Abe promotes recovery through increasing public spending but this is only benefiting a handful of corporations such as construction contractors. To me, it doesn’t make sense because his measures will eliminate more small companies and allow only large companies to continue to exist.”

Use regional threats as excuse to militarize and oppress

“PM Abe was lucky. While he was under increasing criticism for the secrecy bill, China installed an Air Defense Identification Zone and North Korea executed its No.2 official. These events gave the general public the impression of the need to bolster defenses, keeping the falling disapproval rating from going even further,” said a middle-ranking LDP lawmaker.

Taking advantage of intensifying tensions in the region, the Abe Cabinet became oblivious to the public criticism and is pushing ahead with Abe’s ambition of creating a Japan capable of going to war.

The new National Security Strategy approved in a Cabinet meeting on December 17 indicates the move to militarily respond to the rise of China. It even forces citizens to display their patriotism by infringing on their personal beliefs.

The new Defense Program Guidelines which the Cabinet endorsed on the same day introduces the concept of a Dynamic Joint Defense Force in order to deploy the Ground, Maritime, and Air Defense Forces in an integrated and rapid manner. It also touches on lifting the country’s principle of banning arms exports.

The Abe administration uses the moves of China and North Korea for justifying an enhancement of Japan’s military capabilities. The government has no intention to find ways to solve disputes in Northeast Asia through diplomatic means. He instead is moving forward toward destroying Japan’s war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.

The New York Times in its editorial on December 16 wrote: Mr. Abe’s aim is to “cast off the postwar regime”. Critics in Japan warn that he is seeking to resurrect the pre-1945 state. It is a dangerous vision that moves the country back to the past.

The Abe government established a Japanese version of the U.S. National Security Council; forcibly enacted the state secrets protection law; abandoned the previous goal of a “zero” nuclear power society; looks to nuclear power generation as the country’s key source of energy; seeks to remove labor regulations set to protect workers’ rights; plans to change welfare legislation to minimize government spending on social security programs; and intends to create an anti-conspiracy law in which citizens’ personal beliefs and thoughts may possibly be subject to criminal prosecution. His runaway rightward ambitions seem endless.

Conservative writer Hosaka Masayasu describes the present LDP as no longer the ordinary conservative party but a rightward totalitarian one.

Political map changed

“It’s important for us to keep raising our voices in protest,” said a man participating in a weekly protest against the restart of nuclear power plants in front of the prime minister’s office. The 46-year-old man has taken part in the Friday night protest every week since the House of Councilors election in July 2013.

Supporting the JCP’s opposition to nuclear power generation, the man voted for the party for the first time in the House of Representatives general election in December 2012 as well as in the following Upper House election. He said, “The JCP always has consistent policies.”

The man said he realized his choice was right when he was watching on the Internet a House of Councilors plenary session on December 6 which passed the state secrets law. “JCP representative Nihi was the only one who delivered a dissenting speech there,” he said.

In the year since the inauguration of the Abe Cabinet, the political map has radically changed.

The Democratic Party of Japan, the former ruling party, has failed to be in position to criticize the LDP on major issues, such as the consumption tax hike, the reactivation of nuclear power reactors, and Japan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, and thus has had to “tread a thorny path” as DPJ President Kaieda Banri said.

An Upper House member of the DPJ commented, “Like the JCP, we should have presented a clear stance of confrontation, but we failed to engage in persuasive discussions on the secrecy law. If a deliberation on the right to collective self-defense begins, we will be inevitably divided.”

In the Lower House election in 2012, the Japan Restoration Party and the Your Party received 54 seats and 18 seats, respectively, thanks to the media campaign praising them as “the third pole”. The two parties, however, are now widely recognized as forces aligned with the LDP-Komei ruling coalition. This was visibly illustrated when they submitted the secrets bill jointly with the ruling parties after having meetings with them to cosmetically “modify” the bill.

The Your Party’s former Secretary General Eda Kenji said, “Voters did not expect us to side with the LDP,” and left the party with 13 other parliamentarians. Public expectation for Eda’s new party, however, seems to be low as Mainichi Shimbun stated in its editorial on December 11, “After all, it could become just another force to complement the ruling coalition.”

Amid developing citizens’ struggles, the “LDP vs JCP” political picture has become more visible. The aforementioned small company president, who is an LDP member, said, “I want the JCP to become a stronger party because I believe it is the only party able to confront and limit the excesses of the LDP.”
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