Japan's ruling LDP lays out its campaign platform
Prime Minister Aso's long-ruling party is under fire as polls indicate strong support for the opposition Democratic Party of Japan. The vote is Aug. 30.
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At stake is the future of a party that oversaw Japan's dramatic rise in the postwar period, but has come under withering criticism for its lack of governmental reform as well as its handling of the world's second-largest economy amid global financial meltdown. Opinion polls indicate the opposition Democratic Party of Japan has a good shot at winning Aug. 30 vote.
On Friday, Prime Minister Taro Aso, who has held office for less than a year, declared that the economy will achieve an annual growth rate of 2 percent by early 2011 and pledged to create 2 million new jobs. That pledge came despite a Bank of Japan forecast of a 3.4 percent contraction for this fiscal year.
Mr. Aso also vowed that household incomes would grow by about $10,000 a year over the next decade, and that Japan would lead the world in per capita income.
But he failed to explain specific plans for reaching these goals. Instead, he touted the LDP as the more reliable of the two parties.
Aso said he wanted to stress the LDP's "ability to take responsibility. Campaign promises must be backed up and consistent," he said. "That's what makes us different from other parties."
But Aso, whose two predecessors left office after very brief tenures, has struggled with low approval ratings amid policy flip-flops and a high-profile series of gaffes.
Now, many voters appear unwilling to give the LDP – heavily viewed as hidebound and more friendly to business than to individuals – yet another chance.
The LDP "have long failed to deal with protracted economic troubles. Japanese people don't even see Prime Minister Aso's seriousness," says Minoru Morita, an independent political analyst. "More people's lives have begun to crumble and many smaller businesses are on the verge of collapse. I can hear a collective groan coming from all over Japan."
That discontent is giving new life to the Democratic Party of Japan, which, despite its own struggle with a funding scandal that forced the resignation of former party leader Ichiro Ozawa, is polling far ahead of the LDP.
According to a Kyodo News survey conducted a week ago, 30.7 percent of those polled say they will vote for the DPJ, while 15.6 percent give the nod to the LDP. While 37.4 percent have not decided, 84.5 percent say they have a high or certain level or interest in the election.
Opposition hopes run high
Yukio Hatoyama, a Stanford University -educated engineer who has led the opposition DPJ since May, is banking heavily on disgruntled voter sentiment.
Mr. Hatoyama vows to end not only the long-running LDP government but bureaucratic rules and a two-decade-old economic slump.
If the DPJ wins, it is arguing that it will make the ruling party much more accountable, placing more responsibility in the hands of politicians, rather than bureaucrats. The party will place 100 or more Diet members in top government posts. In ministries, lawmakerswill take the lead in drafting, coordinating, and deciding policy – something bureaucrats do now.