Last week marked the second anniversary of the 9.11 terrorist attacks. A few months after this tragic event, a popular weekend news program ona U.S. network channel ran a feature entitled "ethics for politicians"with guests first lady, Laura Bush, Rudolph Juliani, mayor of New YorkCity at that time, and Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington - aman said to have strong influence over the White House on human rightsissues. In the passionate discussion that ensued, Mayor Juliani mademany impressive remarks. He argued that even in a law-abiding nationwhich has a complex decision-making system, in the face of anunprecedented event the ethics or philosophy which political leadershave nurtured will ultimately guide the direction of policy decisions.In Japan, we rarely bring ethics or philosophy into question when voting.Perhaps the forthcoming LDP presidential election, to be held on the20th of this month, will give us a chance to revisit the criteria forpoliticians.
RIETI Report had the pleasure of meeting Prof. Jun Iio, learning aboutthe aforementioned problems inherent in the decision-making system, withregard to Japanese politics, and hearing about the possible fate of thecoming election. (ACN)
Prof. Iio read law as an undergraduate at the University of Tokyo, andit was also there that he completed both an MA and a Ph.D. in politicalscience. Throughout his career he has served as associate professor atthe both the Graduate School of Policy Science, in Saitama University,and at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies. Since 2000,Prof. Iio has continued to hold the position of Professor of Governmentat the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, as well asserving at RIETI in the capacity of Faculty Fellow.
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The LDP Presidential Election
RIETI Report: What do you think are the major problems inherent to thedecision-making system of Japanese politics?
Iio: There are four. Firstly, the Japanese decision-making system lacksa top-down structure where decisions on broader issues are made at theupper level, which are then followed by the lower level. The main factorhampering the development of this kind of process is that Japan'sparliamentary cabinet system is not working as it should. The existingsystem could rather be called a "bureaucratic cabinet system," whereinthe representatives of each ministry and agency make the importantdecisions, not the lawmakers. Under a parliamentary cabinet system, theprime minister is expected to provide guidelines as to how each ministershould set about tackling their respective tasks. However, the currentdecision-making system of Japanese politics is far from having thisfunction.
Secondly, there exists a dual power structure of the government and theruling party. Again, under a parliamentary cabinet system, it isexpected that the government and the ruling parties assume jointresponsibility for policy decision-making. In Japan, however,politicians who become members of the Cabinet are supposed to keep theirdistance from party policies, while the ruling party creates its ownpolicy. This complicates the legislation process. Furthermore, thedecision-making process of the ruling party has a bottom-up structure,which means that politicians both inside and outside of the Cabinet arecontinually pestered by trivial decision-making. This structure hindersthem from reaching a consensus on how to achieve a comprehensive reform.
Thirdly, the word "reform" has become a popular slogan, and althougheveryone believes that reform is a good thing, not many care for itssubstance. Yet, the greatest error of what is known as "Koizumi Reform"is that it presses forward with reform without addressing the problemsassociated with the decision-making process. Prime Minister Koizumipromised to conduct a variety of reforms, and instructed other membersof the government to decide on the details and how to achieve them. Butin many cases, others did not share his goals and hence confusionensued; as was seen in the national highway corporation reform process.Although they use the term "structural reform," not one bit of it hasbeen carried out on structure.
Fourthly and finally, all of the above issues are the results of politicians failing to represent people's interests and opinions.However, at the same time, people want immediate results and are notinterested in participating in the process of making rules andprinciples. These four problems are all closely linked and areobstructing the realization of reforms.
RIETI Report: How has the political environment developed since thecollapse of the 1955 System and the introduction of single-seatconstituency combined with proportional representation in the LowerHouse of the Diet?
Iio: Under the 1955 System, it was the election of the LDP president, not the general election, which practically determined who would becomeprime minister. Actually, the general election was often used just toprepare the battlefield for the presidential election. Publicdissatisfaction regarding this indirect system mounted over the yearsthough, and it was not until the single-seat constituency system wasintroduced in 1993 that LDP politicians began to take this discontentseriously. The party finally realized that the single-seat constituencysystem facilitated a change of political power, and the chance of theLDP losing power became a reality. This was a catalyst for the birth ofthe Koizumi Administration. LDP politicians were smart enough to chooseKoizumi, who has public support, as their party president to preventtheir party from losing power. Owing to Koizumi's popularity, manyold-guards of the LDP were elected in the subsequent Upper Houseelection. This was not the ideal outcome for voters who actually wantedreform to take place - it turned out that the LDP were too smart.
Since becoming prime minister, Koizumi has been incessantly stressinghis battle against the forces which are resisting reform; he is wellaware that his public supporters would want him to do so. Koizumi couldevade criticism for delays in reform by redirecting blame to theseresistant forces, and so one could argue that Koizumi's emphasis of thestruggle is the best way to not advance reform. Those standing in theway of him and his reforms are well aware of this, and therefore wouldnot so heartily oppose Koizumi.
RIETI Report: Can this pattern be seen emerging in the campaign for theupcoming LDP presidential election?
Iio: Yes. Those opposing reform have a dilemma. If they beat Koizumioff, who remains popular with the public, then the LDP may lose the nextgeneral election. On the other hand, should they make no challenge atall to the presidency then they stand to lose their own power. DoesKoizumi stand in a better position? I have my reservations. The powerof splitting the LDP apart is a potent weapon that he has at hisdisposal, but Koizumi has failed to build a solid base within the partyand there is still the possibility that he may not be re-elected. Anyhow,despite singing the word "reform," Koizumi has achieved little of it andfulfilled few expectations throughout his term so far.
In my view, the worst-case scenario would see a representative of thefaction opposing reform running against and being beaten off by Koizumi,ensuring the continuation of the back-scratching relationship betweenKoizumi and the resistant forces. Personally, if Koizumi scores aresounding victory over such candidates, I would like to see them stopcriticizing him and make it clear that they will cooperate fully.Otherwise, the general public, who are not fooled anymore, will expressopposition to the party. Thus, whether reform should be continued or notwill become the main issue in the forthcoming election campaign. In thatsense, it will herald a significant turning point for Japanese politics.
RIETI Report: How should the election campaign be carried out, and whatshould be the most pertinent issue in the election?
Iio: We have been making recommendations to Koizumi that he present aprogram to the public which has a clear vision. This came to be known as "manifesto," or "administration promise" - a concept that has caught onwith other politicians. We proposed that all candidates should draw upmanifestoes wherein pledges and goals are presented, including specifictargets, timetables, and financial means. If Koizumi obtains a landslidevictory in the presidential election, his manifesto will become theLDP's manifesto in the subsequent election for the House of Representatives. On the other hand, if he is re-elected by a narrowvictory, the party manifesto should be the result of a compromise withthe opposing factions. In any case, the publication of a manifesto willhelp bridge the gap between voters and government as to what thepriorities of reform should be. For instance, the term "structuralreform" conjures up in the voter's mind policies like countermeasuresfor deflation and the settlement of nonperforming loans. What Koizumimeans, however, is the introduction of environmentally-friendly cars foruse by government officials, or the reduction of children on waitinglists for nurseries.
If the presidential election is held in a policy-oriented manner, withthe introduction of this manifesto, it will help dissolve some of theaforementioned problems inherent in the decision-making system ofJapanese politics. As regards the first problem, the emergence of aprime minister with a clear vision will pale the effect of a"bureaucratic cabinet system." The policies laid out in the manifestowill be decided upon from the top-down.
As for the second problem, if integrated policy pledges are made in theform of a manifesto, then both the government and the ruling party willmake a unified and concerted effort to realize them; thus the dual powerstructure will disappear.
A manifesto may also be the answer to the third problem, relating to thelack of substance in the "reform" bandied about by the government. Amanifesto should address existing problems structurally, and recommendtarget dates for their solution.
The fourth problem is a little more difficult, and cannot be solvedeasily. However, the treatment of their concerns as policy pledgesstated in the manifesto should encourage voters to participate moreactively in politics.
I believe that whether we will see these developments in the nearfuture or not depends largely on the fate of the forthcoming LDPpresidential election.
11/5-7 The Japan-China Economic Conference 2003, co-hosted by RIETI, IIST etc
For details of event and admission, http://www.iist.or.jp/e/cj-E.html
For a comprehensive list of past and upcoming RIETI events, please visit the website: http://www.rieti.go.jp/en/events/index.html
Brown Bag Lunch Seminars
9/29 Speaker: Bruno van Pottelsberghe (Visiting Professor, Hitotsubashi University / Professor, Solvay Business School, Brussels University)
Moderator: Kazuyuki Motohashi (RIETI Senior Fellow / Associate Professor, Institute of Innovation Research, Hitotsubashi University)
"Assessing the Effectiveness of S&T Policies - What can we learn from quantitative and qualitative evaluation"
10/3 Speaker: Akira Kotera (RIETI Faculty Fellow / Professor of Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo)
Moderator: Ichiro Hirose (RIETI Senior Fellow)
"Sports Arbitration and its Development - Global Relationships and History"
(in Japanese only)
10/7 Speaker: Akiko Sugaya (RIETI Fellow / Instructor, University of Tokyo)
Moderator: Haruhiko Ando (RIETI Consulting Fellow / Director, Agency for Natural Resources and Energy)
(in Japanese only)
10/8 Speaker: Hiroaki Niihara (RIETI Consulting Fellow / Director, Information Economy Division, Commerce and Information Policy Bureau, METI)
Moderator: Kotaro Tsuru (RIETI Senior Fellow)
(in Japanese only)
For a complete list of past and upcoming BBL Seminars, please visit the RIETI website: http://www.rieti.go.jp/en/events/bbl/index.html
9/25 IKEDA Nobuo (Senior Fellow, RIETI)
"The Semiconductor as a general-purpose technology"
"Costs and Effects of Unbundling Regulation"
For a complete list of past and upcoming Research Seminars, please visit the RIETI website: http://www.rieti.go.jp/en/events/research-seminar/index.html
Fellow titles and links in the text are as of the date of publication.
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