一票の不平等 いつまで放置するのか

2015-11-30 08:32:17 | 英字新聞

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 26
EDITORIAL: Vote-value disparity a gross inequality that cannot continue
(社説)一票の不平等 いつまで放置するのか

The Supreme Court’s latest ruling on the issue of vote-value disparity has left us wondering how long it will take until this clear, outrageous inequality is corrected.
It seems that both the judiciary and the legislature lack awareness of the urgent need to fix this unacceptable situation.

The Supreme Court’s Grand Bench ruled on Nov. 25 that the Lower House election in December last year was held in a “state of unconstitutionality,” citing a huge disparity in the relative vote-value among constituencies.

Given that the top court has handed down three similar rulings in the past four years, it has become almost routine to hear it declare that an election was held in a “state of unconstitutionality.”

The Diet has dragged its feet on reforming the electoral system, so a fundamental solution to the problem has yet to be found.

We are concerned that the Supreme Court’s tepid ruling on the issue could be used by the Diet as an excuse for its inaction.

In its ruling in 2011, the top court argued that the method of first distributing one seat to each of the 47 prefectures before allocating the remaining seats in the single-seat constituency part of the electoral system in proportion to population was the main cause of the vote-value disparity. The court said this approach should be “abolished as soon as possible.”

In its 2013 ruling on the Lower House election held in December 2012, however, the court took note of the Diet’s last-minute move to reduce the number of seats slightly as “certain progress,” easing the pressure on the Diet. The court’s latest ruling is in line with the 2013 decision.

In the Nov. 25 ruling, the Supreme Court had encouraging words for work by a Lower House expert committee on the election system to come up with measures to revamp the seat-allocation method, saying efforts to improve the situation are being made in line with the past rulings.

Let us ponder this problem from a basic standpoint.

In the Lower House election last December, one vote in the nation’s least populated constituency was worth 2.13 votes in the most heavily populated district. In other words, the weight of one person’s vote in a certain district was less than half of the weight of another person’s vote in a different district.

Casting votes in elections is the most important of the few opportunities for the public to exercise their sovereign power that is invested in them by the Constitution.

Allowing a situation to continue where a vote in one district is worth less than half of a vote in another represents an egregious inequality among the people that must be redressed immediately.

The fact that the flawed seat-allocation method remains basically unchanged four years after the Supreme Court criticized is testimony to the Diet’s gross negligence.

What is notable about the latest Supreme Court ruling is that three of the 14 justices of the Grand Bench criticized the Diet for its failure to tackle the problem, saying sufficient time had passed to realize equality in voting.

Two of the three dissenting justices argued for invalidating the Lower House election, and the remaining one called for declaring the election “unconstitutional” in the text of the judgment.

In the ruling, the top court maintained that the constitutional order should be formed through interactions between the judiciary and the legislature.

The interactions apparently work as follows. The Diet makes laws, and the Supreme Court sends its messages on certain laws through its rulings. The Diet then reforms the laws in response to the court’s rulings.

This seems to mean that the top court puts much importance on “dialogue” between the legislature and the judiciary.

But history shows the Diet has repeatedly ignored messages from the judiciary or interpreted them in a way convenient to it.

In order to ensure meaningful “dialogue,” the top court should have made more specific demands, such as setting clear deadlines for corrective actions by the Diet.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly declared that both the Upper and Lower Houses have been elected in a “state of unconstitutionality.” This is simply an extraordinary situation.

It is unacceptable that the Diet members, who are obliged to respect the Constitution, allow such serious inequality to remain unchanged.

This injustice should be rectified immediately.


五輪基本方針 テロ対策にも万全を期したい

2015-11-29 07:27:03 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Take every possible antiterror step in preparation for 2020 Tokyo Games
五輪基本方針 テロ対策にも万全を期したい

Preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games stumbled significantly due to the withdrawal of plans for a new National Stadium and an emblem design.

There will soon be 4½ years remaining before the opening of the sports extravaganza. The government must accelerate a diverse range of preparatory work based on the basic policy approved by the Cabinet.

The basic policy defines the 2020 Games as “an opportunity for Japan to demonstrate to the world an advanced undertaking in a mature society.”

Above all, the policy calls for enriching Paralympic programs, saying that it “will contribute greatly to encouraging the impaired to become self-sustaining.” The term Paralympics was first used in the 1964 Tokyo Games. The 2020 Games will mark the first time a city has hosted the Summer Paralympics twice.

In view of this history, seeking to make the 2020 Paralymics the biggest ever is significant from the viewpoint of promoting the building of a symbiotic society.

A noticeable point in connection with the Olympics is that the basic plan set forth a goal of acquiring the highest number of gold medals in the country’s history. The past record of 16 was set at the 1964 Games in Tokyo and the Athens Olympics in 2004.

As far as public money spent in reinforcing training programs for athletes, it is natural for the government to present a specific target. If Japanese athletes perform spectacularly, it will contribute greatly to generating excitement for the Games.

A strategic approach is crucial to achieving the goal. It is necessary to make effective use of limited fiscal resources through such means as allocating training expenses to promising athletes on a priority basis in preparation for the 2020 Games. The Sports Agency, which is in charge of fund distribution, has a grave responsibility.

Anti-doping measures critical

Anti-doping measures are important for conducting fair athletic events. Against the background of the doping scandal that has hit the Russian athletics circle, eradication of doping has become a top priority in the sports world.

The basic policy, however, makes no concrete commitment on the issue, saying only that efforts will be made to “secure a well-prepared system” in cooperation with such organizations as the World Anti-Doping Agency. It is imperative to accelerate the study of specific measures to strengthen the doping test system.

To ensure the safety of athletes and spectators, utmost attention must be focused on antiterrorism measures.

The basic policy expressed a sense of crisis concerning terrorism, saying, “Terrorist threats are becoming a reality,” and pointed out the need to “ramp up intelligence gathering and analysis, border security and vigilance and security at venues, among others.”

It is indispensable for the private and public sectors to cooperate in enhancing the ability to cope with any possible situation.

The basic policy enumerates various measures, including those on the expansion of roads and transport infrastructure and those to deal with the summer heat. To prevent expenses from swelling, it is necessary to list measures in the order of priority.

To smoothly prepare for the Games, the need to clarify the division of the roles and responsibilities to be undertaken by the government, the organizing committee and the Tokyo metropolitan government must not be forgotten.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 28, 2015)


露軍機撃墜 非難合戦を続けている場合か

2015-11-28 06:56:02 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun
It’s not the time for lobbing criticism over downing of Russian warplane
露軍機撃墜 非難合戦を続けている場合か

This situation has poured cold water on the opportunity for cooperation between Russia, the United States and Europe that arose due to the terrorist attacks in Paris earlier this month. Lobbing criticism at each other must not be allowed to derail unity among nations seeking to wipe out the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) extremist group.

This week, a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Russian bomber near the Turkey-Syria border. Turkey insists the Russian plane intruded into Turkish territorial airspace and the pilot did not respond to repeated warnings to leave the area. It reportedly had lodged protests against numerous previous violations of its airspace.

Russia, which in late September launched airstrikes in Syria, saying its aim is to stamp out ISIL, is supporting the administration of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Turkey supports Syrian antigovernment groups and gives priority to toppling the Assad administration. The diametrically opposed positions of Moscow and Ankara lurk in the background to the downing of the Russian warplane.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied the plane violated Turkish airspace and angrily retorted there would be “serious consequences.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov canceled a visit to Turkey, and Moscow has started taking other retaliatory measures such as restricting imports of agricultural products from Turkey.

However, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has supported Turkey’s side of the story, and the U.S. military also confirmed the Russian aircraft received the warnings. Russia’s assertions seem to lack credibility.

ISIL is common enemy

It is important that Russia and Turkey stop their tit-for-tat criticism, restore calm to the situation and move toward preventing a recurrence.

Russia and a coalition of willing nations led by the United States continue to conduct independent airstrikes in Syria. Setting up lines of communication between these military forces is an urgent task to help prevent unexpected situations like the downing of the Russian plane.

The international community should be concentrating on weakening ISIL, which is a common enemy. Countries with a stake in this matter also must avoid discussions that go in circles on ways to end Syria’s civil war and on a transition of political power.

The U.N. Security Council recently unanimously adopted a resolution that calls on member states to fight terrorism and newly spells out the council’s determination to crush ISIL. Britain has indicated a plan to expand airstrikes in Syria, and France has strengthened its aggressive stance by deploying an aircraft carrier to the region.

French President Francois Hollande has embarked on a rapid series of diplomatic summits as he seeks to build a wide-ranging coalition that includes Russia. Hollande and U.S. President Barack Obama held talks in Washington, and they agreed to deepen cooperation to combat ISIL. We attach great important to this chain of international cooperation.

Putin considers France to be an antiterrorism “ally” and is taking a cooperative stance on this point. He probably aims to get the United States and European nations to relax sanctions imposed on Russia due to its intervention in Ukraine, and to break Moscow’s international isolation.

However, Russia’s position does not appear to change with its aim to keep Assad in power while seizing the initiative in the Syrian situation through the use of force. Under these circumstances, it will be difficult for the United States and Europe to “fight together” alongside Russia.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 27, 2015)


日米首脳会談 中国の海洋進出に連携対処を

2015-11-22 09:02:27 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Deepen Japan-U.S. cooperation to handle China’s maritime advances
日米首脳会談 中国の海洋進出に連携対処を

Japan and the United States must work closely together and play a leading role in both the political and economic fields to maintain order in Asia.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama held talks in Manila and agreed to enhance mutual cooperation in dealing with issues related to artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea.

During the summit talks, Obama expressed his intention to continue the U.S. Navy’s patrol operations within 12 nautical miles of the artificial islands. They will be carried out as routine activities, he said.

Abe expressed support for the U.S. patrol operations and told Obama he would “consider the possibility of the Self-Defense Forces conducting operations in the area while examining the impact of the situation on Japan’s national security.”

China must be stopped from carrying out large-scale reclamation in the area and turning the artificial islands into military bases based on self-serving logic in violation of international law. Japan and the United States have to cooperate with Southeast Asian nations and patiently call on China to exercise self-restraint and improve the situation.

The U.S. Navy’s operations are significant to prevent China’s unilateral attempt to change the status quo from becoming established fact. Even if it is not participating in them, Japan should provide indirect support for the U.S. operations. The Maritime Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Navy have built strong mutual trust through joint exercises, and joint reconnaissance and surveillance operations, over a long period.

Japan must also try to help the navies and coast guards of the Philippines and other countries in the area develop their capabilities through official development assistance.

Abe pledges Futenma progress

Abe also told Obama that his administration would proceed resolutely with the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture to the Henoko district. Obama thanked Abe and expressed his intention to work with Tokyo in returning U.S. military facilities in the prefecture to Japan, among other issues.

It is important for Abe to maintain his stance of proceeding steadily with the relocation. Any attempt to seek an entirely new solution will further complicate the issue and only delay the removal of the dangers posed by the Futenma Air Station.

Obama praised the passage of security-related laws in Japan, saying they are historic achievements. He also said the United States strongly supported the Japan-South Korea bilateral meeting that was achieved recently.

In reply, Abe expressed his intention to strengthen cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea to deal with North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.

The cooperation of the three countries is essential for security in the northeast Asian region. Japan and the United States must keep urging South Korea to take positive steps toward that goal.

Referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, the prime minister said Japan and the United States’ leadership of the negotiations made it possible for the countries involved to reach a broad agreement. Obama said the TPP pact would drastically change the global environment and the next challenge was how the pact could be brought into effect and implemented.

It is significant that Japan and the United States have led the formulation of free, fair and transparent rules on trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region. Taking the future expansion of participating countries into consideration, the countries concerned must try to ratify and implement the TPP pact as soon as possible.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 21, 2015)


APEC 自由貿易拡大はTPPを軸に

2015-11-21 06:57:53 | 英字新聞

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Expansion of free trade framework must center around TPP pact
APEC 自由貿易拡大はTPPを軸に

Broadening high-level trade liberalization based on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement is indispensable to the further development of the world economy.

A declaration was adopted Thursday at a summit meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, of which a major pillar is to speed up discussions about creating a “Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific” (FTAAP).

The declaration stressed that the realization of the envisioned FTAAP “should be pursued as a comprehensive free trade agreement.”

The FTAAP would endeavor to economically integrate 21 countries and regions, including Japan, the United States, China and Russia. We welcome the fact that the APEC members — despite their widely different levels of economic development, ranging from industrially advanced to developing — have reconfirmed the importance of unifying trade rules.

If the broad agreements reached in the TPP negotiations, such as the abolition of tariffs and the application of fair and transparent trade rules, spread to nations outside the TPP, it will certainly invigorate the economic activities in the region.

It is a cause for concern that China and Russia, which are not involved in the TPP, have reacted adversely to the envisaged economic integration centering on the TPP.

Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed caution in a lecture during the summit, saying: “With various new regional free trade arrangements cropping up, there have been worries about the potential of fragmentation.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote in an article ahead of the APEC summit that “the confidential fashion in which the TPP negotiations were conducted is probably not the best way to facilitate sustainable growth in the Asia-Pacific region.”

U.S. Congress is key

One country after another has shown interest in taking part in the TPP, including South Korea and the Philippines. China and Russia, whose intentions to vie with the economic order led by the United States are now in jeopardy, have apparently taken steps to check the moves of other nations to become additional TPP members.

China is poised to seek the region’s economic integration based on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which it has been negotiating with countries including Japan, South Korea and India. The United States is not a party to RCEP negotiations.

However, the tariff abolition targets being sought in the RCEP initiative are lower than those under the TPP. It has been pointed out that the RCEP talks have yet to make progress regarding such matters as environmental protection and human and intellectual property rights, while TPP member countries and businesses are required to comply with standards regarding those matters.

To ensure fair and free economic activity, it is more desirable to have the TPP rules accepted as international standards.

It was right that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at the APEC summit: “Japan hereafter will energetically pour our efforts into expanding the TPP.” By cooperating with such countries as Australia, Japan must play a leading role in the RCEP negotiation process — in which the United States is absent — with the aim of bringing its levels of trade liberalization closer to those of the TPP.

It is worrying that rough sailing is expected regarding the ratification of the TPP by the U.S. Congress. In addition to objections from the Republican Party, trade unions, which are the support base for the Democratic Party, have also been intensifying their resistance toward the TPP.

The TPP cannot be put into force without ratification by the United States. We hope the U.S. administration will strenuously tackle the challenge in Congress.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 20, 2015)