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Candidates unveil policies ahead of election to lead Japan's new main opposition party

Yukio Edano, right, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, and Kenta Izumi, policy chief of the Democratic Party for the People, are seen in this composite photo. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Top executives of Japan's two main opposition parties, which are set to merge into a new party, held a joint press conference at the Diet on Sept. 7, as they headed into a two-horse race for the new party's leadership.

    Yukio Edano, 56, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), and Kenta Izumi, 46, policy chief of the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP), met reporters together as the campaigning period for the Sept. 10 election kicked off on Sept. 7.

    Speaking of countermeasures against the coronavirus, Izumi said, "We'd be able to get the economy going by expanding free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and free coronavirus vaccinations, thereby creating a sense of security (among the public)." He added, "I aim to create an opposition party that can communicate its policy measures, not just engage itself in grilling or criticizing (other parties or politicians)."

    Edano, meanwhile, told reporters, "Under the prolonged administration (led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe), Japan's politics has lost its humbleness and a sense of tension." He added, "I will work on creating a functioning government that transforms society into one that is not based on neoliberalism, rebuilds redistribution functions and protects the lives and livelihoods of people."

    The joint press meeting came a day after Edano and Izumi opened their debate as candidates for the leadership election in a weekend program aired by public broadcaster NHK.

    "We've been able to create one big group that can confront the current administration (through the merger). I'd like to tell the public far and wide about another option (for the reins of government)," Edano said during the program.

    Izumi, who advocates making the new party one bent on raising policy proposals, argued, "Focus has thus far been placed on allegations and scandals (involving politicians), but what should be the points of contention in national politics? The (new) opposition party has got to be one that brings to the fore its concept for society as well as its defense and economic policies."

    In regard to economic packages to address the spread of the coronavirus, Edano stated, "There can be bold measures such as reductions or exemptions from the consumption tax and, for example, exempting income tax for those whose annual income is lower than 10 million yen."

    Izumi remarked, "We should temporarily freeze the consumption tax or make its rate 0% (from the current 10%). Such a policy may need to be maintained not just for a year or so but until the coronavirus crisis comes to an end and the country's inflation rate reaches 2%."

    In the coming election, the new party's name will also be decided. Edano insisted that the novel group retain his party's current name, "Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan," by saying, "Constitutional democracy is the essence of democracy that is not merely based on a myopic rule by the majority."

    Izumi, meanwhile, claimed that the new party be called "Democratic Party," saying, "It is extremely important not to run away from the responsibility of and reflection on the former administration led by the (now-defunct) Democratic Party of Japan."

    (Japanese original by Kenta Miyahara and Shinya Hamanaka, Political News Department)

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