Kazuyoshi Shirahama on Decentralization and Regional Parties

April 26, 2012

In a new series featured in the daily Komei Shimbun organ newspaper, senior New Komeito officials provide perspectives and positions on key policy issues. For the third installment, Deputy Chief Representative Kazuyoshi Shirahama clarifies the party's position on decentralization, the Osaka Metropolis concept and coordination with region-based political parties.

In his interview, Shirahama said New Komeito shares the will and concerns of the people of Osaka, which they clearly expressed in the 2011 local government elections, to merge the city of Osaka and Osaka prefecture into a single administrative body in order to eliminate fiscal and bureaucratic redundancies. While the consolidation would require revising the law at the national level, he explained that New Komeito and the Liberal Democratic Party have already collaborated in drawing up a reform bill. On a local level, he said New Komeito legislators in the Osaka metropolitan and prefectural assemblies had formed committees to push ahead with the proposed merger.

Shirahama noted there were differences in individual policy between the Osaka Restoration Association, the rapidly growing political force in the Kansai region led by Osaka Mayor Tohru Hashimoto, and New Komeito. However, Shirahama said the gap between the two could be bridged and that New Komeito recognizes ORA as an emerging populist movement whose primary aspirations also accord with the party's basic policy agenda. Indeed, he attributes increasing public support for regional parties in part to the deplorable track record of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which was voted into power in 2009 by promising meaningful change, but has since failed to deliver on its promise. He also said that groups like the ORA reflect a growing recognition among people that the best way to effect such change was to take action for themselves rather than relying on the national government.

Shirahama reaffirmed New Komeito's commitment to decentralize the national government. He noted that with the maturation of Japanese society, the highly centralized system of the past is no longer viable, and that more power must be delegated to local governments in order to meet the rapidly diversifying needs of the people. New Komeito thus envisages establishing a federal government system in which existing prefectures enter into administrative bodies that are granted considerable government authority, including the right to raise local revenues. Such a system, he explained, will enable citizens to decide policies that are best suited in sustaining and improving the quality of their lives for themselves, rather than forcing national initiatives to meet local needs. As with other federal systems, the central government will continue to administer the social security system and decide foreign policy and national security matters.