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Parties posture with grand pronouncements, few details

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Privatization of Japan Post was the focal point in the 2005 general election. The 2009 election ended in a lopsided victory for the Democratic Party of Japan and the ouster of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party. This Dec. 16, voters will go to the polls to cast their judgment on nuclear power in light of the Fukushima meltdown crisis, whether to open up Japan’s trade and proceed with the consumption tax hike, among other issues.

Following are key policies pushed by the major parties and their candidates.

Nuclear energy policy

All major parties appear to agree to a varying extent that the nation must curb its use of nuclear power, and they also advocate development of reusable and environment-friendly energy.

A major difference among them is when and to what extent to get out of the nuclear energy pursuit.

Parties calling for the immediate halt of nuclear power plants include the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party.

Nippon Mirai no To (Tomorrow Party of Japan) is also taking a strong stance, saying all nuclear reactors should be decommissioned and Japan should be nuclear-free by 2022. The party has also promised to immediately shut down the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, two of whose reactors are now the only ones in operation in the country.

Your Party is aiming for a nuclear-free Japan within the 2020s; New Komeito wants atomic energy to end “as soon as possible” without giving a specific time frame. The ruling DPJ calls for developing new technologies “that will make it possible to shut all operations of nuclear reactors within the 2030s.”

Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) says nuclear power should “fade out” by the 2030s. But not all members appear to be on the same page, with President Shintaro Ishihara opposing the complete denuclearization of Japan.

Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe meanwhile has said it is “irresponsible” to blindly promote abolishing nuclear power. The LDP says it will aim to create a society that does not have to rely on nuclear energy, without giving specific details.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda advocates joining negotiations for the free-trade accord, but softened his tone in the party’s platform, in consideration of those within the DPJ who oppose the framework.

The ruling party platform states the TPP will be studied carefully and the government “will make the final decision.”

The LDP opposes joining negotiations if it will remove all tariffs without exception, and says the DPJ, which damaged ties between Tokyo and Washington in the past three years, is not fit to take part in the negotiations.

Nippon Ishin says it will join discussions but will oppose the framework if it goes against the nation’s interests.

Whereas Your Party remains a strong supporter of joining the TPP, the SDP and JCP are fighting against it, saying it will devastate Japan’s farmers. Nippon Mirai is also against joining the negotiations.

Consumption tax hike

Those who support the consumption tax hike are the ones who pushed the bill through the Diet in August; the DPJ and its coalition partner, Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), the LDP and New Komeito.

Your Party states in its platform that raising the tax should be put on hold and that Diet members, as well as bureaucrats, should first work on cutting their spending. Nippon Mirai also opposes the tax hike, claiming it will only further “cool down” consumer spending.

Nippon Ishin meanwhile wants the consumption tax hiked to 11 percent and turned into a local-level levy.

Economy/fiscal policy

The LDP, Nippon Ishin and Your Party want the Bank of Japan Law revised so the central bank and the government can work together more effectively to end deflation.

The LDP and Nippon Ishin are targeting 2 percent annual inflation, while the LDP, Nippon Ishin and DPJ seek 3 percent annual economic growth.

Your Party is aiming higher, seeking economic growth of 4 percent and promising to raise income levels by 50 percent in the next 10 years.

Constitution

The LDP and Nippon Ishin are strongly pushing for revising the Constitution. The LDP is eager to establish what would be called the National Defense Force under a new charter. It also aims to enable Japan to engage in collective self-defense. However, New Komeito President Natsuo Yamaguchi, whose party will likely form a coalition with the LDP if they win the majority, has said amending the Constitution “is not an urgent matter.”

Nippon Ishin is seeking to rewrite the Constitution, arguing it was imposed by the United States following the war. In addition to promoting collective self-defense, the party is seeking to set rules on choosing the prime minister by popular vote and even possibly abolishing the Upper House.

Political reform

The DPJ is proposing to pass legislation during the next Diet session to cut 75 seats from the Lower House and 40 from the Upper House.

The party also wants a ban on all political donations from private companies and organizations.

Your Party’s political platform states that both Diet chambers should be reduced by over 100 seats and government workers’ salaries cut by 20 percent.

Nippon Ishin is proposing cutting the number of Diet members by 30 to 50 percent, and also trimming their salaries by 30 percent.

Other proposals

While not necessarily significant, some of the parties have included unique items in their platforms.

The LDP wants the “Kimigayo” national anthem and Hinomaru national flag so stated in the Constitution.

The SDP proposes raising the minimum wage from the current national average of about ¥750 to over ¥1,000. Nippon Ishin on the other hand is calling for abolition of the minimum wage, saying its abolition will stimulate the labor market.

Nippon Mirai promises to pay a monthly allowance of ¥26,000 for every child up to junior high school age. This was a key political pledge by the DPJ in the 2009 general election, but fell short quickly due to lack of financial resources. Former DPJ don Ichiro Ozawa, who merged his recently founded party with Nippon Mirai, is likely to have played a central role in reviving the allowance in Nippon Mirai’s platform.