Severely criticizing Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto for the “total failure” of his economic policies, Liberal Party leader Ichiro Ozawa stressed Tuesday that now is the time for his party to play its role in rebuilding the nation’s ailing economy.

“For that purpose, we should win the coming Upper House election, although our force in politics is relatively small,” Ozawa said at the party’s first national convention, held at a Tokyo hotel.

Japan needs a “structural revolution” to drastically change the country’s postwar systems, Ozawa said. “To achieve the structural revolution, political parties, with a clear political ideology and policies, must stand up resolutely,” Ozawa said.

During the past four years, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake “had only been able to work out a temporary solution to get themselves out of a serious crisis in and out of (Japan),” Ozawa said.

The Liberal Party, the fourth-largest force in the Lower House and the sixth in the Upper House, was created in January as a new conservative party after Ozawa dissolved Shinshinto. The party will campaign in the coming poll, expected to be held July 12, on a pledge to halve income taxes and lower corporate taxes to international standards as a first step toward revitalizing the economy. The party also promises to lower the consumption tax from 5 percent to its pre-April 1997 rate of 3 percent.

Other plans include reducing the national debt by trimming the number of government employees by 25 percent and cutting the number of Diet members by 20 percent for the next 10 years. The party has so far selected 10 official candidates for the election, seven for prefecture-based constituency races and three for proportional representation seats.

Although Ozawa had said the party would back more than 20 official candidates in the election, some observers say it will be difficult for the party to reach that number. Party members approved the platform during the convention, including a proposal to enact a basic national security law to reinforce the Japan-U.S. security agreement and give Japan a more active role in U.N. peacekeeping activities.

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