The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Oct. 2 released its manifesto for the House of Representatives election set for Oct. 22.
The party underscored the threat posed by North Korea, and strongly emphasized its ability to lead as a pillar of its manifesto. Another pillar was its declaration that the party would divert funds to be generated from a consumption tax increase to make education free.
The manifesto appears to strongly reflect the will of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, president of the LDP. Yet only one week has passed since he suddenly dissolved the lower house for a general election, and doubts remain over how much discussion the election pledges were given, and to what extent the manifesto's objectives were shared among party legislators.
During the 2014 lower house election, the LDP promised to promote Abe's economic policy mix, dubbed "Abenomics," with its "three arrows" of monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and growth strategy. Two years later during the House of Councillors election, the ruling party advocated the realization of a society "in which all one hundred million-plus citizens are each dynamically engaged," and also focused on measures to cut down waiting lists for working parents to get their children into day care. It additionally promised to rev up the engine of Abenomics as much as possible.
In the latest manifesto, new phrases such as a "productivity revolution" and a "human resources development revolution" are set out as engines to drive up Abenomics.
The Abe-LDP style of election pledges has been to change banners through one way or another to capture voters' attention. In the meantime, the target year of "fiscal 2020" for central and local governments to achieve a primary balance surplus has been deleted from the latest manifesto, and a phrase calling for the active role of women in society has also disappeared.
If the LDP brings out new policies without summing up the outcome of its past pledges, people may well think that the party could end up nowhere.
The LDP's handling of the nation's sales tax, in particular, has been a mess. Prior to the 2014 lower house election, a move to increase the tax to 10 percent was postponed by a year and a half. Then before the 2016 upper house race, it was pushed back by another 2 1/2 years on the grounds of uncertainty in the world economy. As the situation now stands, the tax hike is due to go into effect in October 2019.
This time, however, Abe has gone ahead and suggested diverting funds from the tax increase for other purposes on the presumption that the tax will be raised in two years' time, without providing any explanation of whether there are any prospects of the world economy improving.
Yet after Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike formed her new party Kibo no To (party of hope) and suggested freezing the consumption tax rate, the prime minister suddenly stated that it was possible the tax increase could again be delayed in case there arose urgent economic circumstances on par with the global economic crisis following the collapse of financial services firm Lehman Brothers in 2008. Such talk is irresponsible.
On the issue of constitutional revision, the party suggested -- based on Abe's proposals -- four items including adding a reference to the nation's Self-Defense Forces to the Constitution's war-renouncing Article 9. However, the manifesto provided no drafts of such clauses. This is likely because the issue has not been sufficiently debated within the party.
One cannot deny that the latest manifesto comes off as a document in which the LDP has written over old pledges in the absence of verification of those promises.