Election policy ‘manifestos’ analyzed

Political parties have made public their campaign platforms (‘manifestos’) for the August 30 House of Representatives general election.


The ruling Liberal Democratic Party shows a complete disregard of its responsibility for undermining people’s living conditions and forcing the nation’s economy into a sharp decline. Contrary to its main slogan, “sense of security, vitality and responsibility,” the party promises to further its undemocratic policies.

<Consumption tax increase>

Regarding domestic affairs, the LDP has had to promise to “fundamentally improve” the health insurance system for the elderly aged 75 and over, but it refuses to give up the present framework of the discriminatory system.

It makes it clear that the consumption tax, which is the most regressive tax that destroys the welfare of the public, will be raised. The platform states: “necessary legislative steps will be taken so that they will be implemented as soon as an economic recovery is achieved.”

The major feature is a promise of phased cuts in household burdens of “costs for pre-school education” to zero in three years.

However, we know that the LDP offered the same promise in its platform in the 2005 House of Representatives election and the 2007 House of Councilors election.

It will be necessary for the LDP to first accept responsibility for worsening the child-care environment and lowering the birth rate.

<Japan-U.S. alliance>

Another feature is its call for constitutional revision and more overseas dispatches of Japanese troops.

The platform insists that the alliance with the United States serves as the primary axis of Japan’s diplomacy and calls for it to be strengthened. Using the threat of North Korea as the pretext, it has gone so far as to call for the need to take security steps to make it possible to take part in the defense of U.S. warships in which Japan will cooperate in intercepting missiles fired against the United States and in ballistic missile defense as an example of how Japan should exercise the right of collective self-defense, which even the government has said is unconstitutional.

The LDP platform mentions nothing about the total elimination of nuclear weapons. On the contrary, it calls for “the steady implementation of the U.S. military realignment and the maintenance of nuclear deterrence.”

It also insists on the need to increase overseas dispatches of troops, which is in violation of the Constitution, including the continued deployment of Maritime Self-Defense Force units to the Indian Ocean, the establishment of a permanent law to allow Japan to send troops abroad without parliamentary approval, and the maintenance and improvement of the foundations of the defense industry and military-related technologies.

Referring to constitutional revision, the LDP platform states that the Research Commission on the Constitution established in both Houses of the Diet should start its work as soon as possible in preparation for the implementation of the National Referendum Law from May 2010. It calls for a vigorous discussion to take place on constitutional issues so that the Constitution will be revised as early as possible. Adverse revision of Article 9 is clearly its main objective.

<Reduction of the size of the Diet>

Regarding the number of Diet seats, the platform calls for a “more than 10 percent reduction in the number of House of Representatives seats from the next general election,” and that “in 10 years, the total number of seats in both Houses should be cut by more than 30 percent.” The LDP wants to reduce the number of seats allotted to proportional representation apparently with the aim of establishing a system that can ignore public opinion.

In response to the business sector’s strong demand, the LDP platform calls for the “enactment of a basic law to establish the do/shu system with the view of introducing the new administrative division system 6-8 years after the enactment of the basic law.”

The platform’s pro-business stance is clearly expressed by its call for more funds to be used to help large corporations in research and development and in technological development. The government has already taken some giveaway measures for automakers and electronics makers under the name of assistance in the effort to promote eco-friendly products.

The LDP platform says it aims to raise the country’s self-sufficiency rate in food to 50 percent and promises to “take every possible measure to achieve the goal.” It mentions nothing about the LDP government’s agricultural policy that has contributed to reducing the self-sufficiency rate to 40 percent in 2007.

Komei Party

The Komei Party’s key catchphrase is “We will by all means defend livelihoods.” It insists on the continued implementation of the health insurance program that discriminates against the elderly aged 75 and older by separating them from the existing health insurance system. It also claims that it was justifiable abolishing the welfare assistance to single-parent households that complemented basic benefits under the existing livelihood protection program. It does not admit that it was wrong for the government to carry out cutbacks in social services programs, thus undermining the very foundations of people’s livelihoods. It instead calls for the range of children entitled to receiving child allowance benefits payments to be expanded. This is a pork barreling method.

The Komei platform calls for phased implementation of a tax reform by the late 2010s that includes a consumption tax increase, under the pretext that it is necessary to secure fiscal resources to make the social services sustainable. At any rate, the party is aiming to pave the way for increasing the consumption tax, a tax making livelihoods even harder.

It states that the basic law to introduce the do/shu system should be enacted in three years so that the new administrative division system that “gives regional administrative units” can exercise sovereignty will be introduced in 10 years. It also calls for the number of municipalities to be reduced to 1,000 through further mergers.

The Komei platform insists that the existence of the Self-Defense Forces and “international contribution” should be added to Article 9 of the Constitution, and proposes that the Research Commission on the Constitution, a parliamentary panel set up in both Houses of the Diet, start its work and initiate nationwide discussions aimed at constitutional revision.

It says that the size of the House of Representatives should be reduced substantially and that a multi-seat constituency system should be introduced. For the House of Councilors, the platform calls for the introduction of a larger multi-seat constituency system.

Democratic Party of Japan

The Democratic Party sets forth “Five Pledges”, including establishing a child allowance system, making high school education effectively free, abolishing the health insurance system for the elderly aged 75 and older, and revoking the present government policy of an annual 220 billion yen cut in budget growth for social services.

However, it disregards the fact the LDP-Komei government is at an impasse fundamentally because of its policy of giving priority to defending the interests of the financial circles and large corporations and to maintaining the military alliance with the United States. It therefore has nothing to propose to end political distortions arising from this fundamental LDP-Komei government policy.

The “Five Pledges” do not include foreign policy and security affairs.

<DPJ does not demand cuts in expenditure for the stationing of U.S. forces in Japan or call for a fair share of tax burden by large corporations and the wealthy>

These weaknesses of the DPJ are typically found in its stance on the issue of fiscal resources for implementing policies.

In its “manifesto”, the DPJ says the costs for implementing the proposed policies (16.8 trillion for FY 2013) will be secured by reviewing spending on independent administrative agencies and on large-scale public works projects. But it does not oppose the squandering of three-trillion yen for the stationing of the U.S. military forces in Japan under the name of the “sympathy budget” and for the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, including costs for constructing U.S. military facilities in Guam. The DPJ has no intention to demand that large corporations and the wealthy pay taxes according to their ability to pay.

Due to the failure to break away from these policies, the DPJ is doomed to arrive at the conclusion that a consumption tax increase is necessary.

DPJ President Hatoyama Yukio initially stated, “We will not consider raising the consumption tax rate during the first four years” after taking power. But at the news conference he called to announce the DPJ “manifesto”, he withdrew the earlier statement, saying, “I want to correct my earlier statement that was understood as a rejection of all future discussion about the consumption tax.”

<Article 9>

Regarding the issue of Article 9 of the Constitution, the DPJ “manifesto” calls for vigorous discussion to take place based on its “constitutional proposal” compiled in the autumn of 2005, the aim being to “carefully and actively consider” forming a consensus on revising the Constitution.

The DPJ’s 2005 proposal on the Constitution virtually called for breaking away from the war-renouncing Article 9 by calling for the Constitution to allow Japan, in one way or another, to participate in U.N.-led collective security activities.

In its present “manifesto”, the DPJ calls for Japan’s participation in U.N. peace-keeping operations and in other international contributions that entail the use of arms, such as those under the pretext of fighting piracy in the high seas.

<Call for undermining democracy>

The DPJ “manifesto” puts “an end to wasteful spending” on the top of the “Five Pledges,” calling for the elimination of 80 seats in the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives currently has 480 seats, 300 from single-seat constituencies and 180 allotted to 11 proportional representation constituencies. The DPJ proposes eliminating 80 proportional representation seats. The party’s understanding that proportional representation seats are wasteful reveals that it does not support true democracy at all.

If the number of proportional representation seats is reduced, the Diet will be occupied only by the Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party. This corresponds to the call of Hatoyama and other DPJ leaders for the establishment of a “two-party system” that will make smooth government change more possible. Clearly, the DPJ is seeking an electoral system based on the single-seat constituency system.

Although the DPJ says it is ready to endure hard times, it does not call for the government subsidies to political parties to be abolished and insists on reducing the size of the Diet. These positions show how the DPJ policy runs counter to democracy.

<Advocates Japan-U.S. FTA>

The DPJ manifesto came under strong criticism for calling for the conclusion of a free trade agreement with the United States.

The Japan Agricultural News, Japan’s only daily paper on agricultural affairs, expressed its opposition to the conclusion of the Japan-U.S. FTA in an editorial, warning that such an agreement will increase Japan’s dependence on the United States for food. “It could imperil Japan’s food security,” it stated.

The Agriculture Ministry estimates that if the FTA removes all border measures to protect domestic agricultural produce, Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate will drop to 12 percent.

The DPJ calls for the individual (household) income support for agriculture to be established. However, it has so far said that “income support” should be considered in exchange for opening the Japanese agricultural market to foreign products.

The conclusion of an FTA with the United States will deal a fatal blow to Japanese agriculture.

Social Democratic Party

The Social Democratic Party’s manifesto makes it clear that it will take part in a new coalition government, thus showing willingness to participation in talks aimed at establishing a coalition government.

It puts forward the following four basic policies it intends to raise in negotiations for a coalition government: (1) Rebuild the job market and social services; (2) Change economic policy to one of focusing on expanding domestic demand; (3) Correct the unequal tax code that gives the wealthy and large corporations favorable treatment; and (4) Implement the constitutional ideals.

The fact, however, is that the Democratic Party, which is the potential coalition partner, is in favor of constitutional revision and reluctant to change the present taxation system that treats the wealthy and large corporations favorably. Here is a blatant contradiction.

In the area of national security, the SDP calls for the immediate withdrawal of the SDF from the Indian Ocean and opposes the proposal for the enactment of a permanent law to allow Japan to send its troops abroad without parliamentary approval. We will see if the DSP can hammer out these differences.

People’s New Party

The People’s New Party insists on the need to break away from the “structural reform” policy that was initiated by Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichiro’s government.

It calls for fiscal reconstruction using 200 trillion yen and increasing tax revenues.

The main item on its agenda is a review of the postal privatization. It says that the present political turmoil cannot be ended without the review of the privatized postal services. It calls for the postal services to be made accessible to every Japanese citizen.

The People’s New Party says the consumption tax should be used for maintaining the social services.

It also called for the conclusion of a “new Japan-U.S. alliance.”

- Akahata, August 1, 2009

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