National / Politics

Tokyo Gov. Koike’s upstart party Kibo no To vows to halt tax hike, debate war-renouncing Article 9

Kyodo

The newly formed Kibo no To (Party of Hope), led by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, announced Friday its platform for the Oct. 22 Lower House election, featuring promises to freeze a planned sales tax hike and promote debate on amending the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.

The party, which has said it aims to take power from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition, released nine election pledges and a 10-point manifesto ahead of the start of official campaigning next Tuesday.

“To challenge taboos, we have put into this platform proposals that other parties haven’t been able to talk about, or that they have wanted to propose but found themselves unable to propose,” Koike told a news conference.

The party promises to “advance through debate between the ruling and opposition parties” a first-ever revision of the 70-year-old pacifist Constitution.

While Abe has suggested that an amendment should include a specific mention of the status of the Self-Defense Forces, which remains a controversial topic, the manifesto says Kibo no To will “make a decision after determining whether or not we can gain the public’s understanding.”

Koike said debate on an amendment should extend to Article 9, by which Japan renounces war and the maintenance of “war potential,” but other issues also need to be addressed, including the public’s right to know.

In addition to its election promises, the party announced that it aims to reduce to “zero” a host of troubles plaguing Japan, from cover ups of government impropriety to the prevalence of hay fever and unsightly power poles.

It promises to freeze the planned increase in the nation’s consumption tax rate from 8 to 10 percent, set for October 2019, instead raising revenue by selling state-owned assets and taxing retained earnings at major companies.

Flanking Koike at the news conference, Kibo no To member Yuichi Goto said taxing retained earnings will prod companies into raising salaries or making investments instead of hoarding revenue. Putting money in the hands of workers would encourage individual spending and likely spur the economy.

The party also pledges to take the number of nuclear reactors in the country to zero by 2030 and aims to enshrine the nuclear power ban in an amendment to the Constitution.

The party’s “post-Abenomics economic policies” — referring to the policy mix initiated by Abe — will focus on regulatory reforms to raise potential growth.

“It might be better to say we will add to the existing Abenomics (policy) rather than replace it … It could be called ‘Yurinomics,’ ” she said.

Although not a specific election promise, the party said in its manifesto that it will consider a system of basic income to secure a standard of living for all, even as advances in technology render some industries obsolete. The idea has been trialed in Finland.

The party pledges to cut the number and salaries of Diet members and to encourage transparent government to free Japanese politics from the “shackles” of vested interests.

Under the heading of “crisis management,” the party vows to support the “proper application” of controversial Abe administration security laws that came into force last year, within the limits of the Constitution. The legislation expanded the scope of SDF operations overseas.

It also promises as part of its election platform to support diversity in society, including by making a law prohibiting discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents of Japan.

Koike reiterated Friday that she does not intend to resign as governor to run for the Lower House.

“I have been hearing various opinions, but — as I have said from the start — will thoroughly work in the metropolitan government,” she told the news conference.

Kibo no To has still not specified who would be its pick for prime minister in lieu of Koike.

It announced Friday that it has signed on one more candidate for the upcoming election, bringing the number so far to 203.

They will all run on proportional representation lists, giving them a chance to get seats if enough voters pick the party as their party of choice, while 200 of them will also run in single-seat electoral districts.

Little time now remains for the party to reach its stated goal of fielding a least 233 candidates, who could, if they won, take a majority in the 465-seat House of Representatives.