Take more interest in politics. To shut out no-good politicians

強めたい政治への関心 困った議員を選ばぬために


  Ryutaro Nonomura was a member of the Hyogo prefectural assembly. He resigned after his suspicious use of an allowance for political activities had been exposed. This scandal is still fresh in our memory. What drew the public attention was not his wrongdoing but his funny attitude at a press conference he gave in July 2014 to offer his apology. He suddenly began weeping and shouting, saying, “The problem of elderly people is not limited to Hyogo but common to Japan, isn’t it?” He reiterated words that could hardly be taken as an apology or explanation. His press conference was broadcast live, providing families across the country with a laughingstock. His case was sent to the prosecutors on January 19 this year on suspicion of fraud, and production and use of public documents with a counterfeited seal.


  The allowance given to assembly members to fund their political activities is public money consisting of taxes paid by citizens. The question here is that Nonomura was not an exception at all. His colleague, Hideo Iwatani, was found to have used his allowance to pay for the light refreshments served at his supporters’ club and for the gasoline he had privately used. Shinobu Kamo, another Hyogo prefectural assembly member, allegedly used his official travel allowances to pay for 18 private trips with his wife both at home and abroad. There is the possibility that assembly members in other prefectures did or are doing similar things. So, improper use of allowances should be viewed as a problem for Japan as a whole.


  This cannot be simply considered as a matter of innate qualities of individual assembly members. Are not the voters of Hyogo prefecture responsible for having chosen such troublesome assembly members? Yukichi Fukazawa (1835-1901), the founder of Keio University, says in his book “An Encouragement of Learning”, “Ignorant people have a stern government.” His words are taken to mean that foolish people are deaf to persuasion so the government controls them by terror, which naturally leads to a strict government.


People’s interest in politics seems to be thinning as indicated by the fact that the voter turnout in the general election last December fell to 52.66%, a postwar record low. A growing number of Japanese seem to think that they have nothing to do with politics and that politics is not worth while bothering about. That might be why they have those assembly members who spend their allowances for private purposes and cry loudly in public. Such scandal could have been prevented if more people had taken interest in participating in politics and kept watching their politicking.


  It looks almost sure that Japanese aged 18 or over will become eligible to vote in the next House of Councilors election in 2016. This means that young people get more right about politics. They need to keep up their interest in politics so as not to elect no-good councilors.


(Written by: Takahiro Kusunoki)