Politicians, straighten up!No.1(Continued) [2011/06/17]
Politicians, straighten up!No.1Mayor Masahiro Yamagishi, Katsuyama City, Fukui Prefecture
(Is this really what you think is right)
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Three months have passed since the historically unprecedented, massive disaster hit our country. The Japanese government has not even today been able to finalize a plan of reconstruction, nor is there any effective measure in prospect. The cause of this political poverty is the deterioration of the parliamentarians, as Mr. Sasakawa has so rightly pointed out. The one that stands at the pinnacle is the prime minister so the deterioration of Japanese politics is a natural consequence.
All the while we, the heads of local municipalities, have always stood at the front line in the field and have been struggling day in and day out to regain our cities and our people. We have built rapport with our people, listened to their voices and read their sentiments even from their breathing and every day is a serious fight together with the people.
Having said this, I would like to express my opinion as to the current political chaos. The level of all politicians whether local or parliamentary equally have degraded today. The diet members who have been elected from single seat constituencies are no different in level from the members of prefectural assemblies. To take it to the extremes, they would do everything to win the interest of the voters selling their personality and performance just to be elected. Once elected they would naturally pursue the road to the top. Yet even if they secure the position of premiership after working for party and faction interests and climb the ladder of success, the moral obligation and the sense of mission that they proclaim to possess is no more than just a mere” accessory”. Much more, there is not a single politician, as Mr. Sasakawa said, that have noble ideals to devote themselves to serve the people, among the prime ministers that have been changing annually in the past few years.
In order to break down this state of affairs since it is almost impossible to wish for a top leader who would assume the reins of the government with a determination to risk one’s own life, I suggest that only presidential system would bring a genuine devoted leader to our country.
The heads of local municipalities in Japan govern under a presidential style system. They are not the top people of the members of local assemblies but rule totally as an independent individual without any connection to the assemblymen. Anyone wishing to head a local municipal government must first resign as a member of the local assembly. The heads of local governments are not people who have been “climbing the ladder to success” to reach their position as a leader. That is all the more reason each candidate must be equipped with the determination and a sense of mission, which traits the prime minister lacks to possess.
Should there arise confrontation with the local assemblies, direct popular votes, held separately from the assembly, will make the judgment at the election that takes place every 4 years and should a judgment be made to recall the mayor then there is no choice but to lose the position held hitherto. It is not like the prime minister who can remain a parliamentarian even after leaving office or to blame the party for his/her resignation. Once losing an election the political status would also be lost. This is the political structure that drives the heads of local governments to work in all earnest.
It has been 11 years since I have held office as mayor of a small city of Katsuyama, Fukui Prefecture, with a population of 26,000 people. It is small in size but I have intentionally refrained from municipal merger in order to keep its resilience and to build a city with radiance. Instead I have implemented a basic policy of building this city as an “ecomuseum”.
I have also tackled with stabilization of fiscal policy and have been able to achieve administrative and financial results of \1.1 billion (2004-2006), \1.7billion (2007-2009). The total amount of \2.8 billion is equivalent to 25% of the \11 billion general account of Katsuyama city.
In 2007 Katsuyama city ranked 9th in the Forbes.com as the most clean city in the world. No. 1 in Asia and of course, top in Japan.
Right after the disaster on March 11 we organized the Fukui Corps of emergency fire-fighters and sent fire engines and firemen, under the command of the Fire Defense Agency, to the city of Rikuzen Takada. Three days later on the 14th we were the first of the prefectural municipalities to send two 2-ton trucks fully loaded with relief goods of water, food and blankets to Rikuzen Takata City. We continued our support answering to the request from Mayor Toba of Rikuzen Takata and supported the establishment of welfare evacuation shelter. From April 4th to May 1st. we dispatched a total of 64 staff, mainly the staff from the municipal government and an NPO, to the evacuation shelter to help in its management and provide care services on weekly rotation for the whole month. This was a “remote area” support as we had to travel 880 kilometer and approximately 12 hours of travel each way. Currently we are accepting a total of 71 people from 23 families from the city of Minami-Soma in our public municipal houses with financial support such as aid money, free rent and public utilities charges. We have also raised funds so that relief donation will not have to depend solely on national public donations to be able to continue the support that we have been delivering. We agree totally to Mr. Sasakawa’s principle of aid money and have also donated \100,000 to the Nippon Foundation.
I have hitherto been rather presumptuous to have written about our activities but I wanted to say that the municipal governments, especially the city administrative organs are operating very strongly. The reason is because the basis of the work of self-governments is in the field to support the lives of the people and that of a mayor is to carry out policies that are beneficial to the people. This will not be influenced by whatever changes that may take place in national politics. That is clear when we see how the mayors of the disaster-stricken areas have fought like fury regardless of what goes on in Tokyo.
This is obviously not visible with the parliamentarians who, to borrow the words of Mr. Sasakawa, ”appear to care more about enjoying power that comes with their office, and their priority appears now to save their own skin and their comfortable future.” Not only is it true but even the prime minister who sits at the pinnacle has not shown even the minutest sense of mission and determination.
At a meeting of Japan Association of City Mayors, 2 weeks ago, one mayor said that the current parliamentarians of the Democratic Party of Japan( DPJ) were like children in the eyes of us mayors. I echoed his words. Japan would never be able to have a prime minister who is a man with mettle and devotion if these are the parliamentarians that are elected. The reason for having a new prime minister on a yearly basis today is because under the current system the prime minister is designated from within a limited option and with too many unknowns as to the competence of governance in the leader that is chosen. We must put an end to this political destitution. Therefore it is necessary to revise the existing political system of a prime minister being selected from among the parliamentarian by the parliamentarians to a system of designating the leader of the country by popular vote. In order to restore this chaotic state of our country it is the obligation of the citizens to find a charismatic person and entrust that individual to administer the country for 4 years. The results are then to be evaluated by the citizens after 4 years.
In order to achieve this I would like Mr. Sasakawa to take the leadership and create a way to introducing a presidential system in order to make a breakthrough to solve the current national crisis.
|(postscript) Mayor Masahiro Yamaguchi
The incumbent prime minister is clinging onto his post yet it is clear that he must resign and the pressure from even within his own party is becoming stronger and stronger.
Japanese politics is consumed by a power struggle to choose the successor to Naoto Kan after he resigns but the prospects are hopeless no matter who is chosen.
According to the reports from the media, there are such names as Maehara, Noda, Edano, Okada, Kaieda, Mabuchi and Ozawa that are mentioned but there is no one to whom we would want to entrust the fate of our country. They lack the passion and energy to risk their lives and to devote themselves for our country let alone the determination to die in vain even results are not attained after giving it their very best.
It goes without saying that a leader of a country must be determined to sacrifice his life for the country and to have a sense of mission to work and to bring good results for the nation. But they must be genuine traits and not a borrowed plume.
If in the course of events anyone of the names that I have mentioned above be selected to become the next prime minister that individual is only a prime minister born out of the current political situation and not the one to whom the people have entrusted the governance of the country.
He is only a product born out of rebel without principle, theory without prospect, a manifesto that was to just for taking over the government by catering to the people and not backed by any fiscal policy with sound substance and furthermore the ugly internal rivalry within the party. Whoever becomes the prime minister through such scheming trickery would only have grabbed the power seat by fluke.
Turning our eyes to the United States where the candidates will speak of his or her ideals with passion and the spirit to realize those ideals with overflowing enthusiasm. What we need in Japan is a system whereby a leader, with a genuine enthusiasm and a sense of mission, is chosen by direct popular vote.
Furthermore, an idea of a grand coalition has been reported and yet there is a concern that this would be decided without the people being made known of what the politicians have in mind as to the policy to lead our country in the right direction. I believe that the Japanese parliamentary system of government has reached its limits and it is time that Japan introduces a presidential system of governance.
Mayor Seishi Shirakura, Hokuto City, Yamanashi Prefecture
I read your article with interest and I agree totally to what you say.
The parliamentarians (politicians) are saying as they face the victims of the great east Japan disaster that they are “gravely concerned”, “please do not give up”, “ we are also doing our best”. But can we see any reconstruction plans or specific strategies for the revival and reconstruction anywhere?
Take other national issues, the same rhetoric is repeated everywhere but the action is invisible.
Take the issue of the Northern territories where the Russian leader often visits. This is a major issue for Japan but how are the government and the politicians handling it?
Japan faces a serious risk of its existence as declining population sees no end. To this they say, “We cannot secure young labor force. We can use immigrant foreigners (Chinese)” and discussion stops there.
Outstanding government bonds stands at \900~1000 trillion. It is obvious that this is a loan that must be returned.
“Once economy recovers then tax revenue will increase.” This is a constant statement but where is the discussion on national interest? All is a short term discussion. They are only thinking of the next election (how to extend wearing that badge=term of office). A list of public pledges (Manifesto 2009) to please the people and a continuation on how to realize the impossible. If their public commitments can make a better world it would be far better to have animation (” anime”) scholars be our politicians.
It is said that the Japan’s national strength is declining. We do not want bureaucrat-led politics but we want politics where the bureaucrats are used. We want the politicians to devote all their energy and take charge at this time of a “national crisis”.