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Party trots out past goals, middle-class overtures

DPJ hopes platform derails ‘Abenomics’

by Ayako Mie

Staff Writer

The Democratic Party of Japan, hoping to rebrand itself as the only viable alternative to the Liberal Democratic Party, unveiled a hastily resurrected platform for next month’s Upper House election with vows to help the middle class, revive its reactor phaseout goal and oppose any push to amend the Constitution.

As it did in past campaigns, the DPJ is calling its platform a “manifesto,” noting its seven pillars include supporting the middle class, bolstering the welfare system and investing more in human capital, including education using manga.

The DPJ in particular is taking exception to LDP Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” economic policies and his desire to revise the Constitution.

“Abe’s economic policy works for the wealthy. Even though the prices of imported goods went up, the pension premium has not increased,” DPJ policy research chief Misturu Sakurai said. “We aim to bridge those gaps.”

The DPJ is especially keen to attack Abenomics, saying it is only benefiting the rich and export-oriented corporations. The DPJ also pledged to oppose any Abe-led growth strategies that basically entail having firms offer employees severance pay to reduce their ranks and not compensating white-collar workers for the overtime they put in.

The LDP and its coalition partner, New Komeito, soundly ousted the DPJ from power in last December’s Lower House election. The disarray the DPJ started to suffer before the poll from defections and internal rifts only worsened with the drubbing. It has been trying to regroup since then, only to suffer another pounding in Sunday’s Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, which it went into with the most seats and emerged from in a distant fourth, with the LDP well on top.

The DPJ is also going after Abe’s goal to amend the Constitution’s Article 96, which currently requires a two-thirds majority vote in both Diet chambers to revise the charter. The LDP, hoping to ultimately revise the war-renouncing Article 9, wants to weaken Article 96 so that a simple majority can effect a constitutional change.

The DPJ, which was in power when the Fukushima nuclear crisis started, is sticking with its vow issued before the December poll to phase out atomic power plants in Japan by 2030 — a goal the nuclear-promoting LDP scrapped when it returned to power.

On the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, the ruling bloc is set to join the talks but has pledged to protect Japan’s rice, dairy, sugar, wheat, beef and pork sectors. The DPJ only said that if it were back in power, it would consider leaving the trade accord if the nation’s interests can’t be protected — a position effectively unchanged from that of Yoshihiko Noda, the DPJ prime minister before the December defeat.

The DPJ tried to generate voter support by casting a harsh light on Abenomics during the Tokyo assembly race, but to no avail. A poll by Asahi Shimbun found that more than 60 percent of respondents backed Abe’s policies. Since Abe came to power, stocks have basically gone up and the yen has fallen, pleasing businesses.

Although some DPJ ranks said going after Abenomics would fail, the party stuck to the predictable game plan, apparently lacking time to compile a different strategy. The DPJ is presently the largest force in the Upper House.