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Ishiba camp will work hard to win support from public: senior campaign staffer

Former Environment Minister Ichiro Kamoshita, who serves as deputy head of the campaign staff for former LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba in the party presidential election, answers questions during an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun, on Sept. 11, 2018, at the National Diet Building in Tokyo. (Mainichi)

Supporters of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) heavyweight Shigeru Ishiba are pushing to get the public on board with his party presidential election campaign, a senior staffer of his campaign office told the Mainichi Shimbun in an interview.

Ichiro Kamoshita, a former environment minister who serves as deputy chief of Ishiba's campaign staff, emphasized that "the LDP presidential election isn't just for party members."

Kamoshita noted that Ishiba, 61, the former LDP secretary-general, is the "challenger" in the race, in which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is running as the incumbent president. He said Ishiba will continue to travel to regional areas and shake hands with as many voters as possible and try to win public support for his policies.

"The LDP is a ruling party, and has received the public mandate to run the government. Mr. Ishiba is the person who represents people's feelings that 63-year-old Prime Minister Abe alone can't respond to the situation. Instead of clashing with each other, it'll be all right if both candidates can win trust from the public," Kamoshita commented.

Kamoshita said the time has come for the public to calmly review the relationship between the bureaucracy in the Kasumigaseki district of Tokyo, the prime minister's office and the ruling coalition.

"(Ishiba's) 100-day plan to restore trust in politics and the administration will clarify where the responsibility lies for the cover-up of the Self-Defense Forces' daily logs (on overseas missions) and the Finance Ministry's falsification of documents, and specify the appropriate level of political involvement in the appointment of bureaucrats in ministries and agencies," he said.

As part of his policy of revitalizing local economies, Kamoshita said Ishiba will support local bodies' efforts to that end.

"Revitalization of local economies is the foundation of Mr. Ishiba's politics. There are numerous successful examples across the country. If such efforts spread to other areas, local governments in these areas will become more enthusiastic," Kamoshita said. "Instead of Kasumigaseki's typical top-down approach, the central government should extend rear support to local bodies that are spontaneously working to revitalize their regional economies."

Kamoshita emphasized that Ishiba believes that the government should properly support the lives of all people, including low-income earners.

"Major companies' profits have increased and share prices have risen. However, is it all right to continue policies to support this trend over the next three years? Mr. Ishiba believes it important to protect the livelihoods of people including middle-class salaried workers, (operators and employees of) small- and medium-sized businesses and low-income earners," Kamoshita said.

With regard to constitutional revisions, the campaign staff deputy chief said Ishiba's goal is to delete paragraph 2 of Article 9 of the Constitution, which prohibits Japan from possessing any war potential.

"The Self-Defense Forces (SDF) should be defined as armed forces under international law. At the same time, a law should be enacted to guarantee civilian control over the SDF. It's Ishiba's opinion to create both the accelerator and the brakes," Kamoshita said. "However, the public's interest in the issue isn't necessarily high. Now, efforts should be put into policies on the economy, social security and education."

Kamoshita stressed that both Abe and Ishiba share the LDP's basic policies.

"It's only natural that the prime minister has continued emphasizing achievements he has made over nearly six years in power. If he suddenly and drastically changed his policies, it could be taken as an acknowledgement that the policy measures he has taken so far were inappropriate. Both candidates share the same basic economic, diplomatic and security policies because they belong to the LDP," Kamoshita said. "But if Mr. Ishiba becomes prime minister, he will make subtle changes to the government's policies. Mr. Ishiba has visited regional areas. He will certainly produce results."

(Interviewed by Keiko Takahashi, Political News Department)

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