• Kyodo


Leaders from eight of the nation’s leading political parties crossed swords in an online debate Saturday over the merits of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies and the new security framework he is pursuing.

“We were able to seize the moment (for Japan) to pull out of deflation” thanks to “Abenomics,” Abe, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said during the debate hosted by the popular Nico Nico Douga video-posting website ahead of the Dec. 14 Lower House election.

It was the first time leaders from the eight parties engaged in a debate since Abe dissolved the Lower House on Nov. 21, seeking a fresh mandate for his Abenomics economic policy mix of massive monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and growth-oriented reform.

Banri Kaieda, head of the largest opposition force, the Democratic Party of Japan, slammed Abenomics as “disappointing” while Kenji Eda, co-leader of the smaller Japan Innovation Party, called for reviewing the prime minister’s growth strategy. Eda said the strategy is being shackled by bureaucrats and that labor policies should protect those who are most vulnerable.

Ichiro Ozawa, who leads the People’s Life Party, another small opposition party, said Abe’s economic policies would further boost the number of nonregular employees. “An increase in nonregular workers would not give a boost to consumer spending,” Ozawa said.

Takeo Hiranuma, a former LDP trade minister and current chairman of the small Party for Future Generations, took the prime minister to task.

“(Abe’s) growth strategy lacks specifics. Rural economies are battered,” Hiranuma said.

On the topic of security, Abe defended the controversial national security legislation he intends to submit to the Diet next year.

He said it would be designed to “protect people’s lives,” assuring voters that the Self-Defense Forces would not engage in combat.

Revisions to national security laws are being discussed in the wake of the Abe Cabinet’s July reinterpretation of the pacifist Constitution, which would allow the nation to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

Kaieda said Diet debate on security policies is insufficient and the Cabinet decision to reinterpret the Constitution should be scrapped. To protect Japanese territory, he called for creating legislation based on the right to individual self-defense.

Natsuo Yamaguchi, head of Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, said his party “put a brake” on discussions over the scope of collective self-defense.

Still, worries over collective self-defense were prevalent among other small opposition parties, with Japanese Communist Party chief Kazuo Shii and Social Democratic Party head Tadatomo Yoshida saying that Abe’s security legislation would lead to the SDF becoming caught up in foreign wars.

Shii slammed the Abe administration for “getting out of control over the past two years and turning its back on the public will.”

The SDP’s Yoshida said: “There is a possibility that (Japan could be) embroiled in a war,” adding that the use of collective self-defense “cannot be limited” to certain cases.

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