Candidates running for political office in the near future will likely be allowed to distribute detailed pamphlets of their policies while campaigning.
On Thursday, the Liberal Democratic Party decided to submit to the Diet a bill to revise an electoral law toward that end.
The decision by the LDP’s Executive Council means the bill will almost certainly be enacted during the current extraordinary session, expected to continue until Oct. 10, party sources said.
The bill is expected to be submitted Friday to a special committee on election systems of the House of Representatives. It will then be immediately passed through the chamber’s plenary session before being sent to the House of Councilors.
Under the election law, candidates can only distribute a limited number of single-sheet fliers and postcards during election campaigns. The regulations are designed to ensure “equal footing” among candidates and reduce campaign costs.
Critics say the current law prevents candidates from revealing their campaign platforms, including targets, implementation timetables and sources of finance for their election pledges.
The LDP’s move apparently reflects fear of a backlash from voters and the media, which have called on political parties to draw up detailed policies.
Nevertheless, LDP Executive Council Chairman Mitsuo Horiuchi urged caution over having the party draw up a manifesto, saying, “Some say the LDP is the party in power and (as such) we need to give a fully substantiated policy.”
Many LDP lawmakers have tried to block the bill, insisting it will give opposition parties an advantage by allowing them to make big promises that they wouldn’t be able to easily fulfill.
Opposition lawmakers then attacked the LDP for trying to scrap the bill, arguing that some of its members fear detailed campaign manifestos could be used against their efforts to water down Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s reforms.
The opposition lawmakers say these LDP members are getting a free ride on Koizumi’s coattails by hiding the huge policy differences they have with the popular prime minister.
To date, political parties have offered only vague, generalized slogans before an election. These promises are largely ignored once a party is elected.
Calls for realistic numerical targets have begun mounting recently, prompting a rush among parties to compile policy documents.
The word “manifesto” has recently come into vogue to distinguish political parties’ detailed election policies from their traditional vague slogans.
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