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LDP unveils election pledges including Constitution revision plan

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party announced Monday its
six-point campaign platform for the Oct. 22 House of Representatives
election, including a commitment to debate a revision to the Japanese

Official campaigning for the election, in which the LDP will
face a reorganized opposition likely to be dominated by the new Kibo
no To (party of hope) led by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, is set to begin
on Oct. 10.

Among issues at stake is a potential amendment to the
Constitution -- something the LDP has aimed for since its inception
in 1955 -- that would require the support of two-thirds majorities in
each chamber of parliament plus a majority in a nationwide referendum.

The election pledge states the LDP will aim to make the
first-ever amendment to the Constitution "on the basis of sufficient
debate inside and outside the party" of four specific points.

The points include the question of adding a specific mention of
the status of the Self-Defense Forces, one of the changes that Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe is trying to push through. The SDF are currently
governed by their own law but are absent from the Constitution,
Article 9 of which requires Japan to renounce war and the maintenance
of "war potential."

However, the LDP's pledge does not specifically mention Article
9, reflecting the fact that Abe's proposal on the topic is very
controversial even within the party.

Other parties have expressed mixed views on making changes to
Article 9, including Koike's new party, which is expected to compete
with the LDP for conservative and swing voters.

The other three points are a contentious plan to allow
exemptions to parts of the Constitution during a state of emergency,
a guarantee of free education and reviewing merged electoral
districts for the House of Councillors so as to allow every
prefecture to have at least one member in the chamber again.

As well as constitutional reform, the LDP's election platform
covers North Korea policy, the future of the "Abenomics" policy
package, productivity, human resources development and regional

It includes a preface in which Abe, in his capacity as LDP
president, describes the threat from North Korea's nuclear and
ballistic missile development and Japan's shrinking and aging
population as the "two national crises" at the heart of the election.

It repeats parts of Abe's speech last week explaining his
decision to dissolve the lower house, in which he said Japan must
"apply maximum pressure" on North Korea while tackling its own
demographic problems with a "productivity revolution" and "human
resources revolution."

To that end, the party is proposing spending a larger proportion
of the extra revenue from a planned consumption tax hike in October
2019 on social welfare initiatives for children and the
childbearing-age population.

The party also promises to make preschool education free for
children aged between 3 and 5 by fiscal 2020, and from birth for
low-income families.

The LDP and the Abe administration are keen to recover from a
blow to popularity earlier this year from a string of scandals,
notably allegations that the prime minister was involved in some way
in favorable treatment of his acquaintances' education projects.
(Oct. 2)