The Democratic Party of Japan unveiled on Tuesday its policy platform for the Dec. 16 Lower House election, vowing to end use of nuclear power by the 2030s and promote participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade accord.
Suffering a low public support rate, the DPJ is facing a tough battle against the Liberal Democratic Party in the election. But Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his DPJ are not giving up without a fight, aiming to point out to voters that a return to power by the LDP would spell the return of “old-style politics.”
Noda acknowledged that the DPJ failed to implement many of its policies during its leadership and apologized to the public. The prime minister stressed that the 2012 platform was compiled after reflecting on previous pledges.
Highlights of this year’s DPJ platform
The DPJ will:
- Phase out nuclear energy by the 2030s.
- Limit the operation of existing nuclear power plants to 40 years.
- Fight deflation by cooperating with the Bank of Japan.
- Promote participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks and a trilateral free-trade pact with China and South Korea.
- Take decisive measures against the yen’s excessive rise.
- Compile a fiscal 2012 extra budget to prop up the economy.
- Enhance the alliance with the United States.
- Boost surveillance and security to protect Japanese territory, including the Senkaku Islands.
“Looking back on the past three years we did achieve many things, but unfortunately there were promises we couldn’t keep and we owe the people a deep apology. This manifesto was compiled based on our past reflections and the lessons we learned,” Noda said.
The DPJ avoided numerical targets in its latest platform after being stung by its unfulfilled pledges ahead of the 2009 election that brought it to power, including a vow to provide a ¥26,000 monthly per-child allowance and a ¥70,000 minimum monthly guaranteed pension — targets that proved unrealistic.
Contrary to the LDP pledge to hold discussions for 10 years on the nation’s future energy program before deciding on the “best mix,” including nuclear power, the DPJ is vowing to pursue alternative sources of energy to achieve its goal of halting all reactors by the 2030s.
This is in contrast to the emerging popular force Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), which initially boasted a goal of ending nuclear power, only to backpedal after absorbing the group recently formed by the hawkish former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who advocates atomic energy to sustain the economy.
Because of Noda’s strong push to join the TPP talks, the DPJ also said it would pursue the pact as well as a trilateral FTA with China and South Korea, plus the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a multilateral East Asia free-trade framework.
But in consideration of anti-TPP members within the DPJ, including former farm minister Michihiko Kano, the wording in the platform was kept vague so it can be interpreted in many ways.
To further differentiate itself from the “old” LDP, the DPJ has prohibited second-generation lawmakers from inheriting the constituencies of close relatives. For example, transport minister and Upper House lawmaker Yuichiro Hata was forced to drop his bid to run in Nagano, where his retiring father, former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata, held a seat.
The LDP vowed in 2009 to do the same thing but has since reneged on the policy, approving a number of “hereditary” candidates, including the sons of ex-Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and former LDP Secretaries General Hidenao Nakagawa and Tsutomu Takebe.
On diplomacy, the DPJ vowed to protect Japanese territory by strengthening the Japan Coast Guard’s surveillance capabilities and indicated it would aim to reach a mutual understanding with China to ensure that the East China Sea, where the disputed Senkaku Islands are located, is “an ocean of peace, friendship and cooperation.”
Territorial disputes have seriously damaged Japan’s ties with China and South Korea in recent months. The DPJ also clearly stated that the Senkaku Islands belong to Japan while Takeshima is being “illegally occupied” by South Korea.
Noda criticized policy agenda of hawkish LDP President Shinzo Abe, saying he is being provocative. Abe’s agenda includes enabling Japan to engage in collective self-defense and revising the war-renouncing Constitution.
“I don’t think that Japan’s diplomacy and security will improve by provoking other countries through words and action. In that sense, I am a realist — I will continue to negotiate tenaciously with other countries while keeping calm, which will lead to the realistic implementation of policies,” Noda said.
Noda expressed confidence that this DPJ platform is feasible.
“By making the (2009) manifesto too detailed, it ended up tying us down and was inflexible,” he said. For this year’s platform, “we specified our party’s principles and values and made the rest of our platform flexible and realistic.”