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General election race clashes expected over sales tax, Constitution, nuclear power

The National Diet Building in Tokyo. (Mainichi)

The planned consumption tax increase, constitutional amendment and nuclear power will likely be key points of contention during the campaign for the Oct. 22 general election, major political parties' campaign pledges suggest.

Three main blocs -- the ruling coalition comprising the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito, the conservative opposition Party of Hope and Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), and a liberal bloc consisting of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) -- are sharply divided over these issues.

The LDP and Komeito have pledged to raise the consumption tax from the current 8 percent to 10 percent in October 2019 as scheduled. The party then promises to divert a large part of new revenue from the tax hike to transform the social security system to cover all generations, and to introduce a reduced consumption tax rate for daily necessities.

In contrast, the Party of Hope and Nippon Ishin are calling for a sales tax freeze. The CDP is also of the view that the indirect tax levied on virtually all goods and services should not be raised, with leader Yukio Edano saying, "Under current economic conditions, any tax increase wouldn't win public understanding." The JCP also calls for the tax hike plan to be scrapped.

On the Constitution, the campaign pledges of the ruling coalition parties, the Party of Hope and Nippon Ishin all clearly call for changes. The CDP is cautious about hastily revising the postwar Constitution, while the JCP and the SDP are opposed to any amendment to the supreme law. Still, even parties pursuing constitutional amendment are divided over which clauses should be revised and how.

Komeito and the Party of Hope distance themselves from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's call for adding a paragraph clearly stipulating the existence of the Self-Defense Forces to war-renouncing Article 9.

With some opposition parties making bold public statements on ending nuclear power, the fate of Japan's atomic energy industry is also developing into a major campaign issue. The LDP characterizes atomic power as a base-load power source, while the Party of Hope pledges to get rid of it by 2030, and Nippon Ishin calls for phasing it out. The CDP, JCP and SDP all insist that atomic power be eliminated as soon as possible.

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