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Japanese editorial excerpts -2-.

TOKYO, Aug. 6 Kyodo

Selected editorial excerpts from the Japanese press:

EXPECTATIONS OF IMPARTIALITY (The Japan Times, an English-language daily)

There are rising expectations that Ms. Chikage Ogi, the first female president of the House of Councilors, will do a good job.

The upper house has long ceased to work the way it should. It has become as much an arena of partisan politics as the lower house. No wonder many see it as the ''carbon copy'' of the lower house. Electoral systems for both chambers are similar, allowing a number of candidates who have lost in lower house elections to recover their seats in upper house elections.

What's more, scandals and irregularities have shaken the prestige of the upper house presidency in recent years. During the last regular Diet session, which ended in June, Mr. Hiroyuki Kurata, then upper house president, tossed aside the standing rule of maintaining political neutrality. He sided with the LDP to help railroad through controversial pension-reform legislation in the absence of opposition parties.

The late Kenzo Kono, one of the most outstanding upper house presidents, made it a rule to listen patiently to what the opposition had to say and to let them speak as often as possible. He called it the ''seven-three rule'' -- paying 70 percent attention to the opposition and 30 percent to the ruling party. In this regard, Ms. Ogi's past experience as a leader in the opposition should help.

There is a lot of work ahead. One urgent priority is to correct the gross ''vote value'' inequalities of seat distribution among electoral districts throughout the nation. In the 2001 election, one vote in Tottori Prefecture, the least populous district, was worth 5.06 votes in Tokyo, the most populous. In the July election, the gap widened to 5.16.

In a Supreme Court ruling on the 2001 ballot, six of 15 justices said the vote disparity was unconstitutional. Of the nine who said it was constitutional, four warned that the imbalance, if left uncorrected in the next election, could violate the Constitution. Thus Ms. Ogi's expressed intent of setting up a new consultative body to address the problem is welcome.

Will Ms. Ogi be able to demonstrate strong leadership? The answer depends largely on her ability to resist the pressures of partisan politics. One man she will have to deal with is Mr. Mikio Aoki, the most influential LDP member of the upper house, who reportedly played a key role in her election as president. Mr. Aoki, formerly the secretary general of the LDP caucus in the upper house, has been promoted to chairman.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for Mr. Ogi is to remain independent from her former party. More specifically, her performance as upper house president will hinge on whether she can stay clear of Mr. Aoki's formidable influence.

(Aug. 6)
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Aug 9, 2004
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