With an eye to the expected general election next month, the Democratic Party of Japan has drafted a compact platform calling for various reforms, including elimination of highway tolls.

To be released Sunday, the platform, which the DPJ is calling a manifesto, covers seven major policy areas. It features a pledge to abolish the government-proposed 18 trillion yen in subsidies to local governments, because the money comes with “strings attached.”

Instead, the DPJ wants the money to be used freely by local governments.

The platform also vows to abolish the government-controlled public road corporations and make all expressways in the country essentially toll-free.

The DPJ plans to release the platform at a meeting of party members Sunday to mark the DPJ’s absorption of the former Liberal Party.

The platform provides a direct challenge to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s reform program, which takes up the finances of municipal governments and road administration.

Other policies contained in the DPJ platform include:

*Using a taxation format to calculate the basic state pension program.

*Adding 30,000 more police officers.

*Banning high-ranking government employees from being hired at state-run corporations, a practice known as “amakudari,” or descent from heaven.

*Reducing the size of classes in public elementary and junior high schools to a maximum of 30 students.

*Drastically cutting the amount of public work projects.

DPJ leader Naoto Kan has been working to narrow the core policies as an earlier draft contained more proposals and some party members complained that it was obscure.

Takenori Kanzaki, leader of ruling bloc member New Komeito, criticized the DPJ manifesto, saying that many of its items were “impracticable.”

Speaking at a gathering in the city of Fukuoka, Kanzaki took issue the DPJ’s pledge to make highways toll-free, among other things.

As for the DPJ’s proposal to slash the number of seats in the House of Representatives allocated through proportional representation to 100 from the current 180, Kanzaki pointed out that the largest opposition party boycotted Diet deliberations three years ago when the ruling coalition submitted legislation to cut the number of Lower House seats by 20.

Candidate handouts

Staff report A bill to allow election candidates to distribute books and pamphlets on party platforms during official campaigns was passed unanimously Friday by the House of Representatives.

The bill was immediately sent to the House of Councilors, which will likely ensure its passage during the extraordinary Diet session, which is expected to end Oct. 10.

Under the current election law, candidates are banned from distributing printed matter except for limited numbers of single-sheet fliers and postcards, a regulation designed to reduce election costs and guarantee a level playing field for all candidates.

But calls have recently mounted for detailed and specific election pledges, including timetables for promised action and financial details, because most political parties have offered only vague election promises that are often ignored once the polls close.

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