In the midst of the slow progress towards the climax of the debate on the gasoline tax and road construction, Yamashita Yasuo (DPJ), chairman of HC State Basic Policy Committee, and Eto Seishiro, chairman of its HR counterpart (LDP), called upon Prime Minister Fukuda and DPJ President Ozawa to have a debate in the Diet. They have yet to do so this session, and did not debate last session until the final days of the session.
They’re right: the party leaders should debate, regularly and publicly.
But even without regular clashes between Messrs. Fukuda and Ozawa, the current “Road Diet” (previously known as the Gasoline Diet) belies the popular notions that the Japanese political system is broken and that the DPJ is little more than a pale imitation of the LDP. The clash between the LDP and the DPJ over road construction is a policy debate with real consequences for the future of Japan — and shows that there are genuine and deep differences between the two parties. The DPJ, in taking a stand on the special fund for road construction, has placed itself firmly on the side of ending the privileged and corrupt system that has long characterized LDP rule; the LDP has shown, in the blatant attempt by road tribesmen to preserve the special fund, that vestiges of Tanaka Kakuei’s LDP remain, even if their days are numbered. The line between the parties is clear; it is not just a matter of a twenty-five yen surcharge on gasoline.
Political change is happening before our eyes.