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Japan

Koike’s Hope Party vows to halt tax increase, scrap nuclear power and debate constitution changes

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 October, 2017, 1:05pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 October, 2017, 2:51pm

Japan’s newly formed Party of Hope, led by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, announced on Friday its platform for the October 22 lower house election, featuring promises to freeze a planned sales tax increase and promote debate about amending the war-renouncing article in Japan’s 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 before 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 say, or that they have wanted to propose but found themselves unable to propose,” Koike told a press 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-Defence Forces, which remains a controversial topic, the manifesto says the Party of Hope will “make a decision after determining whether we can gain the public’s understanding”.

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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 pylons.

It promises to freeze the increase in Japan’s consumption tax rate from 8 to 10 per cent planned for October 2019, getting revenue instead from selling state-owned assets and taxing retained earnings at major companies.

Flanking Koike at the press conference, Party of Hope member Yuichi Goto said taxing retained earnings will prod companies into raising salaries or making investments instead of hoarding revenues.

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Putting money in the hands of workers would encourage individual spending and possibly spur the economy.

The party also pledges to take the number of nuclear reactors in Japan 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 rather than replace it ... it could be called ‘Yurinomics’,” she said.

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.

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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.

Koike said again on 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 press conference.

The Party of Hope has still not specified who would be its pick for preferred prime minister in lieu of Koike.

It announced three new candidates for the upcoming election on Thursday, bringing the number so far to 202.

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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 199 of them will also run in single-seat electoral districts.

Little time now remains for the party to reach its stated goal of at least 233 candidates, which works out to just over half of the 465 seats in the House of Representatives.