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Party of Hope vows to halt tax hike, debate Constitution's Article 9

Japan's newly formed Party of Hope, led by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko
Koike, announced Friday its platform for the Oct. 22 lower house
election, featuring promises to freeze a planned sales tax hike and
promote debate on amending the war-renouncing Article 9 of the

The party, which has said it aims to take power from Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition, released nine election
pledges and a 10-point manifesto ahead of the start of official
campaigning next Tuesday.

"To challenge taboos, we have put into this platform proposals
that other parties haven't been able to say, or that they have wanted
to propose but found themselves unable to propose," Koike told a
press conference.

The party promises to "advance through debate between the ruling
and opposition parties" a first-ever revision of the 70-year-old
pacifist Constitution.

While Abe has suggested that an amendment should include a
specific mention of the status of the Self-Defense Forces, which
remains a controversial topic, the manifesto says the Party of Hope
will "make a decision after determining whether or not we can gain
the public's understanding."

Koike said debate on an amendment should extend to Article 9, by
which Japan renounces war and the maintenance of "war potential," but
other issues also need to be addressed, including the public's right
to know.

In addition to its election promises, the party announced that
it aims to reduce to "zero" a host of troubles plaguing Japan, from
coverups of government impropriety to the prevalence of hay fever and
unsightly power poles.

It promises to freeze the increase in Japan's consumption tax
rate from 8 to 10 percent planned for October 2019, getting revenue
by instead selling state-owned assets and taxing retained earnings at
major companies.

Flanking Koike at the press conference, Party of Hope member
Yuichi Goto said taxing retained earnings will prod companies into
raising salaries or making investments instead of hoarding revenues.
Putting money in the hands of workers would encourage individual
spending and likely spur the economy.

The party also pledges to take the number of nuclear reactors in
Japan to zero by 2030 and aims to enshrine the nuclear power ban in
an amendment to the Constitution.

The party's "post-Abenomics economic policies" -- referring to
the policy mix initiated by Abe -- will focus on regulatory reforms
to raise potential growth.

"It might be better to say we will add to the existing Abenomics
(policy) rather than replace could be called 'Yurinomics',"
she said.

Although not a specific election promise, the party said in its
manifesto that it will consider a system of basic income to secure a
standard of living for all, even as advances in technology render
some industries obsolete. The idea has been trialed in Finland.

The party pledges to cut the number and salaries of Diet
members, and to encourage transparent government to free Japanese
politics from the "shackles" of vested interests.

Under the heading of "crisis management," the party vows to
support the "proper application" of controversial Abe administration
security laws that came into force last year, within the limits of
the Constitution. The legislation expanded the scope of SDF
operations overseas.

It also promises as part of its election platform to support
diversity in society, including by making a law prohibiting
discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
residents of Japan.

Koike reiterated Friday that she does not intend to resign as
governor to run for the lower house.

"I have been hearing various opinions, but as I have said from
the start, will thoroughly work in the metropolitan government," she
told the press conference.

The Party of Hope has still not specified who would be its pick
for preferred prime minister in lieu of Koike.

It announced Friday that it has signed on one more candidate for
the upcoming election, bringing the number so far to 203.

They will all run on proportional representation lists, giving
them a chance to get seats if enough voters pick the party as their
party of choice, while 200 of them will also run in single-seat
electoral districts.

Little time now remains for the party to reach its stated goal
of at least 233 candidates, which works out to just over half of the
465 seats in the House of Representatives.

The party has taken on the conservative wing of the fractured
Democratic Party, which had been the main opposition party in the
lower house when Abe dissolved the chamber on Sept. 28.

Koike and Democratic Party leader Seiji Maehara, who plans to
run as an independent, paid a visit together on Friday to the
Japanese Trade Union Confederation or Rengo, the nation's largest
labor organization and the Democratic Party's long-time backer.

After meeting Rengo head Rikio Kozu, who had said on Tuesday
that the body would not fully endorse any specific party, Koike told
reporters she and Maehara "got (Kozu's) word that we will have
support for everyone who had connections (with Rengo) until now."
(Oct. 6)