In the 2009 Lower House election, the election manifesto of the Democratic Party of Japan played an important role in bringing the party to power. It contained goals expressed in numerical figures and timelines for achieving them.
Many voters who read the manifesto voted for the party, hoping their lives would improve. As the manifesto also served as a yardstick to measure the achievement of the DPJ government, there is a general perception that the DPJ betrayed such voters.
In writing its manifesto for the Dec. 16 Lower House election, the DPJ appears to have overreacted to this situation. It contains very few numerical goals and no timelines for achieving election promises. It contains many expressions that enable the party to make an excuse in case it fails to carry out its promises.
Such an election manifesto will not be helpful in reviving the party’s strength. Although the DPJ says it is a party for ordinary citizens, workers, consumers and taxpayers, the new manifesto does not have much appeal.
The DPJ managed to keep some of the promises contained in the 2009 Lower House election manifesto, such as making public high schools tuition-free and introducing an income compensation system for farmers. But it failed to abolish expressway tolls, stop major dam construction and lay the foundation for a minimum pension system covering all people, as it had promised.
Due to financial difficulties, the DPJ diluted its promise of large universal child allowances. According to the DPJ, the party achieved about 30 percent of the items included in the 2009 manifesto. The DPJ now admits that it had an arrogant attitude that it would be able to do anything once it came to power. It also said that the party was immature for not realizing that running the government is a difficult job.
This conclusion should not be used as an excuse for not making serious efforts to overcome obstacles in the way of the party’s efforts to implement policies. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the DPJ has adopted realistic goals when it comes to the implementation of policies that require the allocation of funds, so that it can flexibly handle them. Too much emphasis on realistic approaches weakens the manifesto’s appealing power.
The DPJ’s new manifesto contains some discrepancies with the government’s policy. The party’s call to phase out nuclear power by the end of the 2030s includes a review of the nuclear fuel cycle. Yet, the government has decided to continue this project.
While Mr. Noda is eager for Japan to enter talks on joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade zone, the DPJ does not take a particularly strong stance with regard to the TPP, leaving the decision to the prime minister. The DPJ’s stance on these important points is likely to confuse voters.
Liberal Democratic Party chief Shinzo Abe has criticized the DPJ’s manifesto as phony. But he must realize that, unlike the LDP in the last election, the DPJ at least presented a manifesto that was verifiable, with concrete goals and timelines.
Both parties should strive to come up with manifestos for solving the nation’s problems in a realistic and verifiable manner.