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DPJ chief faults rival parties for policy flip-flops

Double-candidate Noda to fight till end

by Masami Ito

Staff Writer

All media polls suggest the ruling Democratic Party of Japan will be crushed in the Lower House election Dec. 16 and that the Liberal Democratic Party will return to power for the first time in three years.

But Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, the DPJ’s president, insisted Monday he remains committed to keeping the DPJ on top and brushed aside concerns he might lose his seat in Chiba Prefecture in the race.

“There is no mistake that it will be a difficult election” for the DPJ, Noda said at a group interview with the media, including The Japan Times.

“I will fight fiercely till the end so the DPJ can continue leading,” Noda said Monday, a day before official campaigning for the Lower House election starts.

The DPJ recently decided to field Noda for both Chiba’s No. 4 single-seat constituency and the region’s proportional representation segment in an apparent bid to increase the odds of his re-election.

A candidate who fails to get elected in a single-seat constituency can still be elected via proportional representation, depending on how many votes his party wins.

Prime ministers rarely register as both single-seat and proportional representation candidates. The last to do so was Yoshiro Mori of the LDP, in 2000.

In the interview, Noda stressed that the double candidacy was just a “formality.”

The political battle starts “tomorrow, and I would feel bad for my fellow (members) if I start talking as if we had already lost,” he said.

But Noda refrained from commenting on whether he would step down as head of the DPJ if the party fails to retain control of the Lower House.

Public disappointment with and criticism against the DPJ remain strong because the fledgling party — the first new party to take power in roughly five decades — failed to deliver on most of its promises from the 2009 campaign that dethroned the long-ruling LDP.

Looking to woo voters disappointed by the DPJ and wary of a return to LDP rule are the new Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan).

But both parties are also under scrutiny for putting priority on how many members they can recruit instead of solidifying their stances on key political points of voter contention.

Nippon Ishin has flip-flopped, at first advocating an end to nuclear power only to backpedal on this goal, while Nippon Mirai’s platform mainly consists of former DPJ pledges, or in other words, kingpin Ichiro Ozawa’s key goals, including the distribution of child allowances.

During the interview, Noda criticized these parties, pointing out their inconsistencies, flip-flops and lack of funds to actually achieve their goals.

“My first impression is that we can’t see their policy principles nor direction. . . . To put it in simple terms, (their policies) are difficult to understand,” Noda said.

One of the DPJ’s main platform pillars for the election is its vow to end the nation’s reliance on nuclear power by the 2030s. The LDP has avoided the issue by stating that it will hold thorough discussions for a decade before coming up with the “best mix,” but LDP President Shinzo Abe has repeatedly expressed his intention to retain atomic energy despite the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Noda explained the importance of setting the goal clearly to make sure efforts are made to pursue reusable energy and energy-saving measures.

“The goal is clear — to aim for no active reactors by the 2030s, and we will mobilize all resources to reach that goal, without flip-flopping,” Noda said.