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Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012

POSITIONING FOR THE POLL

DPJ will only back candidates who endorse policies: Azumi


Staff writer

Without exception, the Democratic Party of Japan will only back candidates that support the party's policies — including the consumption tax hike — in the Dec. 16 Lower House general election, DPJ Deputy Secretary General Jun Azumi said Tuesday.

News photo
Strategist: Jun Azumi, deputy secretary general of the Democratic Party of Japan, is interviewed Tuesday in Tokyo. YOSHIAKI MIURA

Since the party took power in 2009, it has struggled to implement key policies, including the tax hike and participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, due to strong internal conflict led by some veteran lawmakers, including former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

In an interview with The Japan Times, Azumi acknowledged there are problems in the DPJ's decision-making process and said that this time, each candidate will have to sign an agreement forcing them to follow party policy.

"We need to act in accordance with the party's decision once it has been made, putting aside our personal opinions. This is a rule that will be applied to everyone without exception, from veteran lawmakers to freshmen and new candidates," Azumi said. "We need to reflect on the fact that there were strong voices among the public that the DPJ lacked unity and governance."

According to Azumi, the DPJ currently has candidates in about 250 out of 300 single-seat districts and is working to fill the vacant spots as quickly as possible. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has indicated that his minimum goal is to hold the most seats in the Lower House, if not a majority. Azumi, who will effectively oversee the DPJ campaign, said this is "realistic."

To draw a sharp contrast with the Liberal Democratic Party, the DPJ has prohibited second-generation lawmakers from inheriting districts from parents and other close relatives.

On Tuesday, transport minister and Upper House lawmaker Yuichiro Hata was forced to give up his bid to run in the December election from the Nagano district where his father, former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata, held a seat.

In 2009, meanwhile, the LDP vowed to ban second-generation lawmakers from campaigning in districts held by relatives. It has it backtracked from the pledge and has approved a number of the "hereditary" candidates.

These include the sons of former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, and former LDP Secretaries General Hidenao Nakagawa and Tsutomu Takebe.

"The conditions of competition are completely different and nonhereditary candidates are at a disadvantage. Hereditary candidates unilaterally block the way for other, new, candidates which I don't think is very democratic . . . and it is unfair," Azumi said.

The outlook for the DPJ still looks severe and recent media polls show that the LDP will be the likely election winner.

Earlier Tuesday, LDP Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba indicated his intention to maintain a steady relationship with New Komeito and the DPJ after the election in order to pass bills through the divided Diet, in which the opposition controls the Upper House.

Azumi meanwhile was reluctant to make any promises.

"We will do what we promised like the social and tax reform but it depends on what sort of policies the LDP puts forward," Azumi said.


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