Serious Differences Emerge Between Japanese Party Platforms
As the December 16 elections in Japan approach, the parties have begun publishing their platforms.
The new Japan Restoration Party has come up with the most radical proposals. The party, running second in the polls and gaining on the Liberal Democratic Party, wants Japan to have a new constitution as opposed to the postwar constitution drafted by the United States.
The Restoration Party objects to the pacifist drift of the Constitution, designed to wean Japan away from militarism. Restoration wants to unshackle Japan from limitations on its defense capacity. In the compromise reached by the party's two leaders --Shintaro Ishihara who favors continuing nuclear power and Toru Hashimoto who opposes nuclear power --the party currently favors a gradual abolition of nuclear power by 2030, while coming up with alternatives that will make Japan a global model.
As the two leaders of the party built a power base in local government, the party wants governors and mayors to be appointed ministers and remove the prohibition on their serving simultaneously as legislators. Additionally, they want the sales tax raised from 5 to 11% with the extra taxation going to fund local governments.
The party seeks to differentiate itself from the Liberal Democratic Party by rejecting costly infrastructure projects as a means for boosting the economy. The LDP was notorious for building Bullet Train links to remote villages that made contractors happy but made no economic sense.
The key to economic success for Restoration is greater competitiveness. The party favors a military buildup and particularly Japanese naval power.
Ishihara was blunt about the current territorial dispute with China and he claims that Japan would have to display a willingness to sacrifice in defense of the islands, because the US would not display a greater willingness than Japan itself. The best way to counteract Chinese trade sanctions was to withhold Chinese access to technologically more sophisticated Japanese products.
Under the Restoration Party's platform, the legislative branch would be streamlined by abolishing the upper house and cutting the number of legislators by 30 to 50%. If the polls hold up, the party may well enjoy the role as political kingmaker and so far it is being coy about its choice, expressing no preference for either the LDP or the ruling Democratic Party of Japan.
The DPJ, that currently holds power, is well aware of the fact that it could not hope to compete with either the LDP or Restoration in terms of nationalism. It is therefore attempting to present itself as the responsible and realistic party, while holding firm to Japan's position in the territorial disputes with China and South Korea. The DPJ, according to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, would reach an understanding with China to transform the South China Sea and into an area of peace and cooperation.
On the economic front, the DPJ is emphasizing free trade agreements such as the Trans Pacific Partnership and a free trade agreement with China and South Korea, to be supplemented with similar agreements throughout Southeast Asia.
In a bid to reassume the good government mantle, the DPJ has forbidden party princes, the sons of lawmakers, from running in the same constituency that their father held. In this manner, the DPJ is attempting to demonstrate that it - as opposed to the LDP - is the party of opportunity and fair competition.
The DPJ has learned a lesson from the 2009 elections and has steered away from specific commitments that it had failed to live up to and contents itself with generalizations this time out.