Opposition parties in Japan, in their efforts to counter government positions, may have gained a reputation as being irresponsible and unrealistic.
But as the Nov. 9 election draws near the Democratic Party of Japan says this time will be different.
DPJ President Naoto Kan said Wednesday the party’s primary target in the general election of the House of Representatives is to win more than 200 seats in the 480-seat chamber and unseat the Liberal Democratic Party-led ruling coalition.
As of Wednesday, the DPJ has fielded 264 official candidates and supports another 16 non-DPJ members — the largest-ever figure for the party, which recently absorbed the Liberal Party.
“At any cost, we want to prevent the LDP, New Komeito and New Conservative Party coalition from winning a majority” in the House of Representatives, he said.
The DPJ’s objective is to win a simple majority in the chamber, and it won’t rule out forming a coalition with the opposition Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party if it fails to do so, Kan said.
When the Lower House was dissolved Oct. 10, the ruling coalition had a total 286 seats, the DPJ had 137, the JCP 20 and the SDP 18.
If it is to reach its goal, the DPJ will have to convince voters that it is taking matters more seriously than the LDP-led coalition.
One of these issues is reform of the ailing public pension system. Kan criticized the LDP for failing to propose any reform plan. The government says it will hammer out a plan by the end of the year — after the Nov. 9 election.
Health minister Chikara Sakaguchi and the Finance Ministry have made conflicting proposals for pension reforms, and the ruling alliance has failed to come up with any joint reform plans in its campaign pledge.
The DPJ meanwhile has proposed the establishment of an income-proportional pension system by combining the public pensions of salaried workers, self-employed people and public servants. The basic benefits would be financed by tax revenues rather than pension premiums, according to the DPJ’s plan.
The DPJ is also hoping to differentiate itself over Japan’s role in the postwar reconstruction of Iraq. The matter is likely to be discussed when Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and U.S. President George W. Bush meet in Tokyo on Friday.
Kan said the DPJ supports humanitarian reconstruction efforts for Iraq but opposes Self-Defense Forces supporting the U.S-led occupation forces. Kan said the U.S. led a one-sided attack on Iraq without getting the authorization of the United Nations.
“But if there is request from a government of Iraqi people or the United Nations, we would consider cooperating,” Kan said.
The party’s campaign platform includes a promise to consider revising the Constitution. This was once considered a political taboo for the opposition camp, which feared that such moves might alienate labor union votes.
Ruling coalition lawmakers have accused the DPJ of trumpeting unrealistic policy proposals that the lawmakers claim the DPJ is unable to follow through on, such as the DPJ’s proposal to abolish nationwide expressway tolls.
The DPJ has proposed using 2 trillion yen of the 9 trillion yen annual budget for road construction to pay the mounting debts of the national expressway network.
“The only way to prove what they say is to let us control the government,” Kan said in response to the lawmakers’ criticisms. “We’ll prove what we say is not pie in the sky. Just let us do it.”
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