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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ozawa party takes populist route

Main planks: decentralization, delay on tax hikes, no nuclear power

Staff writer

Ichiro Ozawa has launched a full-on assault on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's plans to double the sales tax and reactivate nuclear reactors, based on policy pillars announced Friday by his new party.

News photo
Ichiro Ozawa

Kokumin no Seikatsu ga Daiichi (People's Life First) adopted three key policies the same day that would see far more decentralization of power, oppose a tax hike in the immediate future and end Japan's reliance on nuclear power.

At a news conference, lawmaker Yoshio Maki, who was tasked with overseeing the process, hailed them as "the party's most important policies."

Further details are expected to be revealed Wednesday.

But People's Life First still faces a tough road ahead, and is expected to seek the cooperation of other political parties and regional groups, including Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto's Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka).

By placing decentralization — Hashimoto's most prized goal — at the top of the party's agenda, Ozawa may be trying to woo the popular mayor and his followers.

"Decentralization comes first to drastically redefine the roles played by the central and local governments, and to delegate more revenue and power to municipalities," Maki said.

On Noda's proposed consumption tax increase, Maki said the party is opposed to "an immediate" hike, but did not elaborate further.

People's Life First, which was launched July 11, had initially promised to unveil its policy platform last week, but Secretary General Shozo Azuma explained that members were taking the requisite time to thoroughly discuss the key issues.

"Policies are the life source of a party and I don't think they should be presented hurriedly, nor decided by a single person," Azuma said. "We need to have as many party members participate in the process as possible to decide on the most appropriate policies."

The majority of the party's members are first-term lawmakers with little recognition on the national stage. Political observers believe most of them would be unable to retain their Diet seats if a general election were to be called anytime soon.

The policies are therefore widely viewed as a populist attempt to reflect what the public wants to hear, and boost its members' re-election hopes.

Although the party's stance on foreign policy was not revealed Friday, Ozawa recently criticized current relations with the United States, especially over the planned deployment of controversial MV-22 Ospreys to the U.S. Futenma base in Okinawa.

During a weekly nonpartisan meeting Thursday, Ozawa assailed Noda and his government for failing to stand up to Washington and reflect Japan's national interests.

"The current relationship is an alliance in name only — the government is effectively following Washington's global strategy in political and military terms," Ozawa said.

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The Japan Times

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