TOKYO (THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has resolved to dissolve the House of Representatives for a general election. Necessary preparations are being coordinated for the task, with a likely schedule of Oct 10 for the start of official campaigning and Oct 22 for voting and ballot counting.
It is not unusual to ask for the confidence of the public through a national election at this point, as it has been nearly three years since the last lower house election was held. The prime minister is urged to carefully explain the significance of the envisaged lower house election.
The prime minister's decision to dissolve the lower house reflects a recovery trend in the approval rating for his Cabinet, which sharply declined at some points.
The opposition Democratic Party (DP) is currently experiencing internal confusion caused by party members leaving the group one after another like falling dominoes.
An attempt to form a new party by such figures as Masaru Wakasa, a lower house member close to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, has just begun to take shape. The prime minister's decision also seems to reflect his strategic judgment that it will be more advantageous for him to call a lower house election before opposition parties are solidly prepared to enter the race.
It is understandable for the prime minister to try to gain the driving force needed to carry out important policies by exercising his right to dissolve the lower chamber and winning a general election. To achieve that objective, he should properly clarify the issues to be debated in the election.
The lower house election will be conducted amid the growing threat of North Korea's nuclear and missile development. How to reinforce the Japan-U.S. alliance to bolster its deterrent power while also promoting joint efforts by the international community, including China and Russia, to hem in North Korea should be properly debated.
It will be important for the Abe administration to speak to the public, in specific terms, that the security-related legislation is functioning as a legal base for the defence of Japan's peace.
The government must consistently maintain preparedness to immediately respond to new military provocations from North Korea, thereby minimising the impact of a "political vacuum" that would last for about a month.
Points of contention will also include how the results of the Abenomics economic policy should be assessed.
Although the economy is moderately improving, the recovery lacks force. How should the growth strategy be reinforced? Should the consumption tax rate be increased to 10 per cent in October 2019, as initially scheduled? It is important to promote in-depth debates in each issue.
Regarding amendments to the Constitution, the Liberal Democratic Party is considering campaigning on such issues as adding a provision defining the legal grounds for the Self-Defence Forces while maintaining the first and second paragraphs in Article 9 of the top law.
The prime minister should fearlessly stress the necessity of revising the Constitution and explain a concrete vision of amendment in an easy-to-understand manner.
With Abe at its helm, the LDP has achieved sweeping victories in four consecutive national elections. However, there is no cause for optimism in this respect, as his administration's arrogance and negligence have been viewed as a problem.
The DP and other opposition parties are condemning the envisaged lower house dissolution as a means of concealing suspicions tied to Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Educational Institution. Their accusation is based on the fact that the lower house dissolution means a loss of opportunities to sternly question the government in connection with the matters at an upcoming extraordinary Diet session.
However, points of contention to be addressed in the race cannot be limited to those issues alone, given that a lower house election is meant to choose which party will take the reins of government.
The DP cannot expect to recover the trust of the public unless it presents a realistic plan for a new administration and practical policies while also showing it is able to run the government.
The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.