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Party Leaders Debate Ahead of July 2016 House of Councillors Election
[2016.06.22] Read in: 日本語 | 简体字 | 繁體字 | ESPAÑOL | Русский |

Prime Minister Abe Shinzō and other Japanese party leaders took part in a debate on June 21, 2016. The Constitution, the economy, and other key issues are likely to dominate discussion during campaigning for the July 10 House of Councillors election.

Parties Divided Over the Constitution

Japan’s House of Councillors has 242 seats. Members serve for six years and every three years half of the seats are contested in a national election. Of the 121 seats at stake in this year’s July 10 election, 73 are for electoral districts(*1) and 48 will be awarded through proportional representation.

The ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Kōmeitō has 76 seats not up for reelection in 2016; if it can win 46 more in the July vote, it will retain its majority. If the LDP alone wins 57 seats, it will have a simple majority in the House of Councillors for the first time in 27 years. Prime Minister Abe Shinzō has set a target for the coalition of winning 61 seats—a majority of those up for grabs this time.

Abe requires a two-thirds majority of lawmakers to support his efforts to amend the Constitution while in office. If the coalition and other parties favoring amendment, such as Initiatives from Osaka, are able to win 78 seats, he will have the backing he needs to proceed. Democratic Party leader Okada Katsuya has set the twin goals of securing enough seats to block this move and preventing the ruling coalition from winning a majority of contested seats.

Japan’s 18- and 19-year-olds will be able to participate for the first time in this election, now that the voting age has been lowered from 20. Both ruling and opposition parties are doing their utmost to appeal to the 2.4 million new voters.

On June 21, leaders of nine parties took part in a debate held by the Japan National Press Club. Their thoughts on the government’s Abenomics policies, the Constitution, and other issues are summarized below.

Abe Shinzō (Liberal Democratic Party)

Economics, fiscal policy Abenomics has achieved results. We delayed the increase in the consumption tax to prevent a new economic crisis. Breaking out of deflation, growing the economy, and increasing tax revenues will help to secure stable financial resources for social security.
The Constitution, national security I have not claimed that constitutional amendment is off of the table when it comes to debate. But the fact is that a national referendum is what will decide whether any changes are made to the text. The Diet’s Commission on the Constitution will also dispassionately discuss the issue, but any proposed changes must be placed before the people.
Nuclear power We take a solemn stance toward dealing with the aftermath of the nuclear accident in Fukushima. At the same time, it is essential to have an affordable, reliable energy supply. We would like to reduce dependence on nuclear power as much as possible, but it is impossible to eliminate it entirely.

Okada Katsuya (Democratic Party)

Economics, fiscal policy The Abe administration’s economic policies have hit a dead end. Without a good quality of life, individuals cannot find peace of mind. Through its policies, the Democratic Party will balance economic redistribution with growth. We will shift to a sustainable economy, focusing on investment in people, income redistribution, and reform of work patterns.
The Constitution, national security The government is seeking to amend Japan’s pacifist Constitution. We will work to repeal security laws that may be unconstitutional and block any changes to Article 9.

Yamaguchi Natsuo (Kōmeitō)

Economics, fiscal policy We will give hope to those people who have not reaped the benefits of growth generated by Abenomics by enhancing social security and nursing and child support. We will reform employment and working patterns and reduce the gap between nonregular and regular employment.
The Constitution, national security Amending the Constitution is a legislative, not an administrative, issue. It is not the responsibility of the ruling parties who form the government. We will further debate in the Diet.

Shii Kazuo (Japanese Communist Party)

Economics, fiscal policy We will set right the damage caused to citizen’s lives by Abenomics and redress the economic divide and poverty. We will also block the high-handed actions of the Abe government on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other matters.
The Constitution, national security We will work to repeal security laws and block amendment of the Constitution. The Self-Defense Forces are unconstitutional and, in the future, we aim to abolish them in stages. The issue at hand, though, is not abolition of the SDF, but whether they should be deployed overseas.

Katayama Toranosuke (Initiatives from Osaka)

Economics, fiscal policy We will conduct thorough reforms of administrative structures and other reforms that may entail real pain to Diet members themselves. We will reduce the number of Diet members. We will not increase taxes.
Other The age of eligibility to run for public office should be reduced to 18 and online voting should be introduced.

Yoshida Tadatomo (Social Democratic Party)

Economics, fiscal policy We will create hope and opportunities for young people. We will strive to eradicate “black” companies and exploitative part-time jobs.
The Constitution, national security We will block negative amendments to the Constitution. We aim to maintain a pacifist Constitution in a country that does not wage war. We will also oppose construction of a new military base in Henoko, Okinawa.
Nuclear power We will create a nuclear-free society.

Ozawa Ichirō (People’s Life Party & Taro Yamamoto and Friends)

Economics, fiscal policy To create stable lives for Japanese citizens and eliminate concerns about the future, we aim to make employment regular, create a minimum guaranteed pension, maintain medical insurance for the whole nation, and establish a new financial support system for families with children.
The Constitution, national security We will maintain the ideals of the Constitution, seeking to solve international conflicts through the United Nations.

Nakayama Kyōko (Party for Japanese Kokoro)

Economics, fiscal policy We will pursue a path of economic growth, raising individual incomes. Aggressive fiscal policy is a must, so we will conduct public works projects in every part of the nation.
The Constitution, national security We will maintain peace using every available method.

Arai Hiroyuki (New Renaissance Party)

Economics, fiscal policy By working toward the success of Abenomics, we will redress the economic divide.
The Constitution, national security In security legislation discussions, we contributed to the creation of rules for prior Diet approval of overseas deployment of the SDF.
Nuclear power We are the only conservative party aiming to eliminate dependence on nuclear power. The government should not rush into restarting nuclear power stations.

(Originally written in Japanese and published on June 21, 2016. Banner photo: Party leaders hold hands at the Japan National Press Club debate on June 21, 2016.)

(*1) ^ While most electoral districts correspond to areas within prefectures, in 2016 combined Shimane-Tottori and Kōchi-Tokushima districts will be contested for the first time. See Katayama Yoshihiro, “The Sloppy and Unconstitutional Revision of the Public Offices Election Law” (October 2015).

  • [2016.06.22]
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