Friday, July 21, 2006

We can learn from Japan

Japan has a political party that this province's parties can learn from. It's called the New Komeito (Japanese: 公明党, Kōmeitō) or NKP.

It's also popularly known as the "New Clean Government Party".

Although it's gone through many incarnations over the years, several important aspects have remained constant.

One is that the party's base philosophy is founded on Buddhist principles. That might sound exceptional but it's not that unusual; many parties around the world are based on religious principles. Several western European parties are rooted in Christian ideas and some are more specifically Catholic based.

Even in North America, one could easily argue that the US Republican Party and some branches of the Canadian Conservative Party are Christian parties. Even the NDP predecessor party, the CCF, was founded on Methodist social gospel ideals.

None of this means that these are theocratic parties and the New Komeito is not a theocratic party. It just means that they derive their political foundations from a particular set of religious ideals.

However, that's not what makes this party interesting to us here in NL.

What makes this party relevant to our province is their policy platform. It includes the reduction of the power of central government and bureaucracy, an increased role for the private sector and increased transparency in public affairs.

In a country where money politics rule, where under-the-table fat envelopes of cash buys influence, where politicians funnel money into favored communities, groups and individuals and where wasteful government public works projects are conceived and executed exclusively for political ends, this party stands as a beacon for political ethics and clean government in Japan.

The first point of manifesto, and their basic reason for existence, reads in part:

"Towards Better Government: Sweeping reforms to government, public spending, rooting out political corruption.

... Parliamentary politics is founded on ethical political conduct. Yet a seemingly endless procession of scandals involving politicians and their corrosive dependence on money has occurred in Japan for years, resulting in a debilitating loss in public trust and confidence. New Komeito has long taken the lead in political reform, and we pledge to continue waging our battle against political corruption in order to rid Japanese politics of its tainted legacy. Moreover, we declare war on all outdated political privileges, seeking to end unnecessary entitlements for legislators."
The New Komeito actually believes in these principles and they do what they can to promote them. As a member of a government coalition, they work these ideals into government policy. When in opposition, they do what they can to force government to respect these ideas.

This is a party for whom openness, transparency and accountability are more than just empty words tacked onto the end of the government news release to justify doing exactly what government plans to do anyway.

That's a significant difference from parties which revere political expediency. You know the kind: they defend of grossly inappropriate actions, they stonewall calls for outside investigation into questionable activities, they clamp down on the release of information to the public and generally prefer to "manage the issue" instead of confronting the problem at hand.

I guess that's the difference a sound ethical foundation makes.

There is no local provincial equivalent to the New Komeito or Clean Government Party.

And it shows.

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