• Reuters, Kyodo


The ruling Liberal Democratic Party announced its policy platform Tuesday for an Oct. 31 election, with a focus on ending the coronavirus pandemic and promises to rebuild the middle class and defend against an increasingly assertive China.

"We would like to show solid measures and appeal to the people — first, how to confront the coronavirus… and to bring peace of mind and hope to the people," LDP policy chief Sanae Takaichi told a news conference.

Voters are believed to be expecting plans for decisive action that will bring an end to the pandemic and rebuild a weak economy.

The platform highlighted COVID-19 measures including supplying oral anti-viral medication this year, as well as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's vision of realizing a "new capitalism" that focuses on economic growth and redistribution of wealth. The party also promises tax incentives that will encourage companies to raise wages.

On security, the LDP said it would "reconsider" its response to an increase in China's military activity around the Taiwan strait as well as islets in the western Pacific controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.

The government would aim to raise its defense budget "with an eye to bringing it above even 2%" of gross domestic product, the party said. Japan's defense spending has remained around 1% of GDP in recent decades.

Kishida, who took office last week after being chosen as LDP leader, has said he will dissolve the House of Representatives on Thursday and call a general election on Oct. 31.

The LDP, which is looking to keep control of the powerful Lower House together with its coalition partner Komeito, is pledging financial aid to people hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, including those without regular employment and those with young children.

The platform also includes pushing forward debate on making changes to the postwar Constitution, including amending the war-renouncing Article 9 to include a reference to the Self-Defense Forces.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) will pledge to increase taxes on rich individuals and large companies while easing the burden on lower- and middle-income households in its own campaign platform for the vote, party sources have said.

According to the sources, the CDP will call for a temporary lowering of the consumption tax, from the current 10% to 5%, and will effectively exempt people who earn less than around ¥10 million annually from paying income tax.

The party apparently aims to one-up Kishida, whose vows to reduce wealth disparities are in question after he walked back plans to review Japan's capital gains tax.

Regarding the capital gains tax, Kishida had suggested he was considering a review of the current flat rate of 20% but backpedaled Sunday after the comments sent share prices falling, saying there were "widespread misperceptions" that the change would happen immediately.

The LDP's platform did not include a review of capital gains tax.

The CDP's campaign platform will claim that Abenomics, the policy mix implemented by the former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his successor Yoshihide Suga, has caused the gap between the rich and the rest of the population to widen.

In a bid to revive the coronavirus-hit economy and help the most vulnerable, the opposition party will promise to draw up a supplementary budget worth more than ¥30 trillion and give cash handouts of ¥120,000 to low-income individuals.

The CDP — led by Yukio Edano, who served as chief Cabinet secretary when the CDP's forerunner party was in power — expects to boost tax revenue by about ¥10 trillion in total by, among other things, changing the corporate tax into a progressive tax system and by raising the ceiling for income tax on rich individuals, according to a senior party official.

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