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Koike's party to halt sales tax hike, push constitutional debate

The new party led by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike will tout a halt to
the impending sales tax hike and further debate on amendments to the
war-renouncing Constitution in its election campaign platform,
sources close to the matter said Wednesday.

The opposition Party of Hope will also seek to "have zero
nuclear power plants by 2030," the sources said.

Its policies on tax and nuclear power indicate a bid to
differentiate itself from the similarly conservative ruling bloc
headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The Party of Hope is arranging to release its election platform
by Friday, before official campaigning for the Oct. 22 lower house
election starts next week, according to an aide to Koike.

The party announced an additional nine candidates on Wednesday
night. They will run both in single-seat districts and on
proportional representation lists, giving them a chance to get seats
based on voters' choice of preferred party even if they lose in their
districts.

The party also said two people it had initially listed as
candidates have decided to drop out. This brings the total number of
candidates to 199, 198 of whom will run in single-seat districts as
well as on the proportional representation lists.

Abe, who heads the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is proposing
spending a larger proportion of the extra revenue from the
2-percentage-point consumption tax hike scheduled for October 2019 on
social welfare initiatives for children and the childbearing-age
population. The increase will take Japan's sales tax rate to 10
percent.

Abe's administration has also advocated taking the country's
nuclear reactors back online despite safety concerns following the
2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

The Party of Hope is seeking to come up with detailed nuclear
power phase-out measures by incorporating energy-saving steps with a
goal to increase the percentage of renewables in the country's energy
mix, the sources said.

On the Constitution, however, Koike's "reform-minded
conservative" party is likely to take a similar stance to the LDP,
which says in its campaign platform it will aim to make the
first-ever amendment to the supreme law "on the basis of sufficient
debate inside and outside the party."

Koike's party will "advance (constitutional) discussion
including on Article 9" which requires Japan to renounce war and the
maintenance of "war potential," according to the sources.

The LDP has said its talking points will include the question of
adding a specific mention of the status of the Self-Defense Forces,
which remains a controversial topic.

"We will do what the LDP cannot do. Otherwise, we cannot regain
vibrancy for Japan. It is our task to promote bold reforms," Koike
told reporters on Wednesday.

The fledging party established by the governor last week aims to
challenge the LDP by fielding at least 233 candidates, more than half
of the 465 House of Representatives seats.

On the economic front, the party will aim to revitalize the
economy through deregulation measures and utilizing special economic
zones as part of its "post-Abenomics economic policies," referring to
the policy mix initiated by Abe.

The party will also promise to reduce the number of
parliamentarians and their salaries to break with "politics shackled
by vested interests."

Amid growing threat from North Korea's missile and nuclear
programs, the party will pledge to bolster crisis management,
according to the sources. (Oct. 4)