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Sunday, Sep. 2, 2012

Vows include more political control, defense boost

Hashimoto releases national manifesto

Staff writer

OSAKA — The policy platform for a new national party Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and his local policitical group plan to establish calls for enhanced control by elected officials over the bureaucracy and an end to the ban on Internet campaigning.

The pledges released Friday night by Osaka Ishin no Kai (One Osaka) party also promise a tougher, more robust defense of Japan's sovereignty and to push for a national referendum on revising the war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution.

Officially dubbed the "Eight Point Restoration" ("Ishin Hassaku"), the manifesto touches on more than a dozen topics and includes promises to abolish the Upper House, halve the number of Lower House seats to 240 and introduce a system to directly elect prime ministers.

It also calls for strengthening the functions of the Lower House and cutting Diet members'political party donations and perks by 30 percent.

The platform pledges to fundamentally reform the top levels of the central bureaucracy, including the appointment of vice ministers and bureau chiefs by politicians and throwing open many lower level positions to nonbureaucrats.

Many of these reforms are designed to meet another key pledge: the realization of a regional system of government that would end the prefectural framework, strip the central government of many of its current powers and create between nine and 13 semiautonomous regional governments.

To achieve this goal, the manifesto includes promises to work to abolish the current local tax system and turn the consumption tax into a regional levy. But it does not state whether it supports or opposes a rise in the sales tax.

On Article 9, Hashimoto is proposing that its revision be put to a national referendum, a move favored by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with whom Hashimoto has grown close in recent weeks.

Both Abe, who is expected to run in the Liberal Democratic Party's presidential election later this month, and Osaka Ishin no Kai have said they favor some form of cooperation between the LDP and Hashimoto's national party after the next general election.

On other issues, the platform comes out in support of Japan's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade initiative and calls for Japan to end its dependency on nuclear power, although it provides no plan to achieve this goal.

With an eye toward the territorial disputes with China over the Senkaku Islands and South Korea over the Takeshima islets, the manifesto calls for enhanced self-defense measures.

"We will improve policies and defense measures to use our own power to protect Japan's sovereignty and territory," it states.

On foreign relations, it is oriented toward maintaining the status quo, describing the Japan-U.S. security treaty as the cornerstone of the nation's foreign and defense policies. Reflecting previous comments by Hashimoto, the platform pledges to create a new plan that would oblige the rest of the country to do more about U.S. military bases in Okinawa Prefecture, though it fails to provide any details.

"We'll create a new road map for all of Japan to reduce Okinawa's burden" from hosting the bases, the manifesto says.

But it does not touch on the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from Ginowan to the less populated Nago area, both on Okinawa Island, or the scheduled deployment to Futenma of controversial MV-22 Ospreys next month.

Finally, the manifesto calls for lifting the ban on election campaigning via the Internet. Under current law, candidates are not permitted to use social media during official campaign periods, a law that Hashimoto, who at times sends out dozens of messages a day on Twitter, has said is more reminiscent of a dictatorship than a flourishing democracy.

The platform is expected to be formally adopted by Osaka Ishin no Kai next Saturday, and the new national party is set to be launched sometime in mid-September.

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The Japan Times

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