Party leaders clash over Japan’s economic and nuclear future

12/01/2012
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A debate was held at the Japan National Press Club between the leaders of the different parties contesting next month’s parliamentary election. The main focus was on the leaders of the two major parties, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, but nine other smaller parties and groupings made an appearance.

TOKYO (majirox news) –At the Tokyo debate preceding the national election on December 16, the Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and leader of the major opposition Liberal Democratic Party, Shinzo Abe, clashed over inflation targets.

Noda says that reversing Japan’s current deflationary trend to a 1% inflation target is one that is within the realm of possibility.

“It is realistic to propose policies that will lead to a 1% rate of inflation,” Noda said.

Opposing him. Abe says that he will call for measures to achieve a 2% inflation rate in an attempt to drag Japan out of the doldrums, which it currently finds itself. He says that this has always been his goal, even in his previous term as Prime Minister. However, Abe has also said that he will not specify the monetary policies he wishes to see implemented.

Abe said, “I had a goal of achieving inflation some six years ago.”

But while Noda¹s party is pledged to eliminating the use of nuclear power by the end of the 2030s, Abe’s LDP has yet to determine a policy and this, as well as foreign policy differences, are driving a wedge between the LDP and its ally, New Komeito. Other opposition groups call for more rapid divestment from the nuclear industry, or even an immediate halt to the use of nuclear power.

Noda said, “We must reflect on the past myth of safety and assume responsibility.”

This election is complicated by the large number of small parties and groups which have sprung up. Some eleven parties were present at the debate, with one absent. The presence of these “third force” smaller parties, some with only one or two populist planks in their platform, is splitting the vote.

Mizuho Fukushima, leader of the Social Democrat Party, said her party is against nuclear energy, a hike in the consumption tax and changing Japan’s constitution. Tokyo’s former Governor Shintaro Ishihara and Abe would to change it to include armed forces.

On the issue of the disputed Senkaku Islands,the parties disagreed over the methods Japan should adopt to assert its sovereignty.

This election is complicated by the large number of small parties and groups which have sprung up. The presence of these third force smaller parties is splitting the vote.

Kenji Ito, a small business owner, said, “I don’t believe in any of these parties because they never follow through on the things they promised, including the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan.

Even without expressing firm policies, and ruling Japan for over 50 years, the LDP is still ahead in the polls, but with only 25% supporting it. The ruling DPJ comes third, with second place going to the Japan Restoration Party of local politicians Shintaro Ishihara and Toru Hashimoto, regarded by some observers as right-wing nationalist mavericks.

Voters will head to the polls on December 16 to determine the future direction of the country. In the current political climate, most observers are predicting a coalition, with the LDP holding the reins of power.

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