Monday, January 7, 2008

The DPJ reorients itself

The DPJ, in a move that suggests that the shift I sensed in this post may be becoming a clear trend, has announced that it will submit a bill in the regular Diet session that proposes the creation of a "consumer ombudsman." The DPJ's plan envisions an independent official, appointed not by the government but by consensus of the Diet, who will take over from the Cabinet Office's Kokumin Seikatsu kyoku and the Fair Trade Commission to unify the handling of consumer complaints to the government.

This is the kind of proposal I've been waiting for from the DPJ. It goes beyond griping about the LDP's malfeasance and actually proposes a practical, constructive solution to a problem. It emphasizes the importance of independent, (hopefully) apolitical oversight of the government, and places the concerns of the people first.

I wonder the extent to which the DPJ's new approach — has anyone heard the DPJ talk about farm subsidies lately? — is a function of the growing appreciation that it has to reclaim the mantle of the party of urban Japan in order to succeed in a general election. Note that if an election is held this year, the discrepancy of the value of a vote in the least populous district (Tokushima-1) will be only 2.226 times more valuable than the value of a vote in the most populous district (Tokyo-6). That is a slight increase over last year (2.202), but it is still a considerable difference from the vast discrepancy in Upper House voting, in which a vote in rural Tottori prefecture is worth 4.883 times the value of a vote in Kanagawa prefecture.

The emphasis on responsible governance for the Japanese people is, I think, a wise approach to take for whatever reason, and I hope we'll see more of it.

2 comments:

Jun Okumura said...

Hmm, create a commission comprised solely of political appointees? Now where have we heard this story before?

A less charitable view of the DPJ turnabout could be framed as follows:

The DPJ catered to the rural vote in the Upper House election, where rural communities are grossly overrepresented, and is now appealing to the urban vote for the Lower House election, where this is less the case. In the meantime, it has ditched the idea of nailing Mr. Fukuda on the antiterrorism legislation override vote because it could not sell it to the public. Very sound, clear-cut political strategy, showing Mr. Ozawa back at the top of his game. But can it keep doing this ear-to-the-ground policy making for every election? It seems to have caught up with Mitt Romney...

Mr. Noah said...

What makes me happy about this DPJ proposal is that it's domestic in nature. Whatever one thinks should be Japan's posture with respect to China, America, etc., it's undeniably economic and social issues that have (and will continue to have) the biggest effect on Japanese people's daily lives. One reason I think that Japanese people are typically apathetic about democracy is that politicians rarely address issues of daily bread-and-butter importance (and until recently addressed very few real issues at all). Hopefully the DPJ will change that.