LDP seeks to reduce size of Diet

10% Lower House downsizing, future sales tax hike among goals in pending poll platform

Kyodo News

The Liberal Democratic Party will pledge a greater than 10 percent reduction in the number of seats in the Lower House in its policy platform for the Aug. 30 general election, party sources said Wednesday.

The manifesto, which Prime Minister Taro Aso is to unveil Friday as LDP chief, will stipulate that the party trim the powerful chamber’s 480 seats by “at least 10 percent” before the next Lower House election after the Aug. 30 poll, the sources said.

In what appears to be a streamlining and cost-cutting measure, the party will “aim for at least a 30 percent reduction in total parliamentary seats” in both houses of the Diet, the platform will say, without mentioning whether the LDP seeks a one-house parliament as called for by some members, they said.

The pledges will be part of a category called “responsibility,” one of three major areas in the manifesto along with “reassurance” and “vitality.”

On so-called hereditary candidates, the LDP, trailing the Democratic Party of Japan in opinion polls, will vow not to field or support spouses or other relatives within the third generation of retiring lawmakers in their districts in subsequent elections after the Aug. 30 poll..

In addition, it will ban retiring members from transferring their political funds to their successors.

To make it easier for people to run for national election, it will pursue a legal change to enable candidates to take campaign leave or return to their previous careers after serving as a Diet member if they are elected, the sources said.

On political donations, often the source of scandal, the platform will call for expanding tax incentives for individual contributions, and come up with ways within a year to make funds transparent and prevent law violations.

It will also specifically pledge to try to make transparent cash flows regarding the political activities of labor unions, whose national confederation, Rengo, supports the DPJ.

According to part of a draft outline of the party’s platform obtained separately, the LDP also pledges to overhaul the tax system, including hiking the consumption tax, shortly after the economy enters a recovery.

In the draft platform, the LDP has stipulated its goal of a tax system overhaul “without delay” after the economy sees an upturn and legally required measures are implemented by fiscal 2011.

The LDP also says it will act within three years to aid people who are receiving no, or very little, pension benefits.

The draft also mentions the scandal of lost pension records that surfaced in 2007, saying the problem should be solved by the end of next year, while proposing to establish a panel to reflect public opinions in national welfare policymaking.

On Monday, the DPJ unveiled its platform, which features a promise to realize a government led by politicians rather than bureaucrats with an eye to ending the LDP’s long grip on power in the upcoming House of Representatives election.