Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga was asked (jp) at a recent press conference whether, given the administration’s insistence on the sanctity of the principle of going to the public on big policy decisions, the election would also be about getting the public’s verdict on collective self-defense changes implied by the July 1 cabinet declaration. Suga responded that as constitutional revision is in the LDP’s manifesto, then it was not necessary for them to get the public’s opinion on collective self-defense specifically, and implied that it was not as important a decision/significant policy change as Abe delaying a tax increase.
So, (controversially) changing the constitutional fabric of the nation without even a parliamentary vote is not a big decision, but putting off a tax increase which everyone supports and where you already have the statutory power to do so, is?
When reporters pushed back by pointing out to Suga that the secrets law was not written in the manifesto, he retorted “there is no need to go to the public on every issue…only for important changes.”
So, despite arguing for the last two years that both collective self-defense and the secrets law were essential for Japan’s national security, now they are suddenly not very important decisions?
This line of questioning came from Abe’s 18th November criticism of the DPJ for pursuing a consumption tax hike that was not indicated in its 2009 and 2010 election manifestos (although, it was certainly in the LDP’s manifesto!).
Criticism also came (jp) from the (quite far) right of the spectrum as well, with Next Generation sec-gen Yamada Hiroshi (likely exasperated that his party’s continued existence is doubtful) arguing that there was no need to dissolve the house, and that while a tax increase would justify going to the people, he’d never heard of a case where someone would go to the people for a tax reduction or to not implement a tax increase. Other opposition leaders have also raised the small technical problem of the fact that both the public and all the opposition parties support not increasing the consumption tax at this point, so it was not, philosophically speaking, possible for it to become an election issue of contention and the focal point of legitimation. Thus it was clear to everyone that the LDP was only acting on the basis of self-serving party and partisan interests. Two terms you are likely to hear a lot from the opposition over the next three weeks in this vein are 党利党略 (privileging party interests) and 自己中解散 (self-centered dissolution).