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DPJ manifesto targets dramatic changes for Japan
Updated: 2009-08-24 15:18

TOKYO: With less than a week to Japan's elections, which are expected to bring dramatic changes to the nation's political landscape, Deputy Chair of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Policy Research Committee Tetsuro Fukuyama explained how children, eliminating wasteful spending and reforming the economy are central to his party's manifesto at a news conference in Tokyo on Monday.

DPJ manifesto targets dramatic changes for Japan
Posters of leader of Japan's main opposition Democratic Party Yukio Hatoyama are displayed at the party's candidate office for the upcoming election in Tokyo August 20, 2009. [Agencies] 

The document, which lays out the intentions of the party if it manages to take power in the election, includes a number of reforms that could change Japan drastically if realized. "We have spent many years preparing for this moment," Fukuyama said. "We want to create a new kind of politics that is led by the people of Japan."

As Japan lumbers in recession, Fukuyama argued that despite recent good news, there is a chance that conditions will worsen. " Since demand fell from the United States (after the subprime crisis and collapse of Lehman Brothers), Japan has simply transferred its economic dependence to China."

What the DPJ wants to do, Fukuyama said, is to stimulate domestic sales. "I don't deny the importance of having an export- led economy, but unless we can increase domestic demand, the nation's finances will remain in their current, fragile state."

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To stimulate domestic growth, the DPJ plans to realign the nation's budget, generating savings of around 9 trillion yen, which it will then redistribute to the population, particularly young families.

This idea has been met with skepticism from the public. In a recent survey by the Asahi Shimbun, 83 percent of respondents said they did not have faith in either parties' budgets and wondered where the money would come from.

The LDP has criticized the DPJ over its budget reforms. However, Fukuyama retorted: "The LDP has paid through its policies through debt and consumption tax, and this puts a burden on future generations.

"We wish to look at the entire budget to try and pay for our policies without putting a burden on the population. (What we are going to attempt) is almost unprecedented in Japanese politics."

To look at the budget, and other areas of government, Fukuyama said the DPJ will set up a body -- tentatively called the administrative reform council -- to give extra power to the prime ministers office, and weaken the position of unelected bureaucrats in the halls of the Diet.

"The people sent to the various branches of government will be well coordinated and have a common goal of implementing the reforms laid out in the DPJ's manifesto."

One area in which the DPJ seems to differ little from the LDP is foreign policy. Fukuyama admitted as much, saying his party believes continuity to be important in this area of policy.

However, at some point in the future, the DPJ does hope to build an "East Asian community", a bloc that would increase cooperation within the region and also sets out its hope of seeing the abolition of nuclear weapons, goals that Fukuyama admitted may seem somewhat idealistic.

It seems almost guaranteed that the DPJ will not realize all of the goals and policies set out in the DPJ's manifesto, but that does not seem to be hindering the momentum the party has built up heading into August 30. A Kyodo survey released Sunday estimated that the party will take more than 300 seats in the election, giving it a majority in both the upper and lower houses of the Diet -- and a mandate to attempt to change the way that Japan is governed.

Analysts see the mandate the public is giving the DPJ as being more to do with a desire to punish the LDP than approve of Yukio Hatoyama's opposition party. The DPJ does however seem to be aware of this, campaigning under the slogan of "seiken kotai" ( political change). Surveys have shown that the way that this change will come about, and how it will shape the future of Japan, has the public worried.

Fukuyama admitted that there was perhaps reason for the public to look to the future with some trepidation. "As we have never been in government, we cannot prove we can run the nation effectively."