LDP manifesto pledges to combat rising prices, bolster Japan’s defense

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Sanae Takaichi, chairperson of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, presents the party’s manifesto for the upcoming House of Councillors election, in Tokyo on Thursday.

Taking “powerful and flexible” steps to counter rising prices and making a plan to fundamentally strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities “within five years” were among the key campaign pledges unveiled Thursday by the Liberal Democratic Party ahead of next month’s House of Councillors election.

A pledge to amend the Constitution “at an early date” also was included.

Prices of everyday goods have been climbing due to factors including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The LDP’s manifesto called for continuing measures aimed at mitigating sudden changes in gasoline prices and steps to counter increased raw material costs from being passed on to consumers through higher prices.

LDP Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi said the party would work closely with the government and “take steps without hesitation, when necessary.”

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is LDP president, said Thursday that the government’s task force on commodity prices, wages and livelihoods would hold its first meeting Tuesday.

“I want the task force to clearly show a concrete pathway for curbing food prices and the electricity bill burden,” Kishida said to reporters.

The election pledges featured seven main pillars and centered on the slogans of “protecting Japan” and “building a future.”

The LDP has in mind a goal of spending 2% or more of gross domestic product on defense expenditures, which would match the target set by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which Japan is not a member. The party said it aims to reach the “necessary budget level.”

The pledges also specified that Japan will acquire a “counterstrike capability” to destroy an enemy’s missile bases and other targets for the purpose of self-defense.

The manifesto made clear an approach that aims to balance measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus with keeping economic activity up and running.

In line with the “new capitalism” policy championed by Kishida, the LDP called for investment in people through higher wages and for more than ¥150 trillion to be invested by the public and private sectors combined over a 10-year period in the shift to carbon neutrality.

The party emphasized its desire to soon revise the Constitution in four areas, including clarifying the status of the Self-Defense Forces in the charter.

The manifesto noticeably placed two major issues currently confronting Japan — the deteriorating security environment, and rising crude oil and other prices — front and center.

Before the pledges were announced, Kishida attended a meeting of secretaries general of LDP branches from across Japan held at party headquarters. Kishida touched on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying, “The world’s peaceful order is being shaken.”

Kishida also mentioned the soaring cost of living.

“People are becoming very anxious about daily life and their jobs,” the LDP leader said. “I’d like to harness the strength of the people while we push ahead with decisive politics that gets things done.”

Campaign pledges pertaining to diplomacy and security were often printed in the latter half of LDP manifestos issued for past elections. This time, they were right at the front. This apparently was a nod to the worsening security situation surrounding Japan, such as the recent flurry of missile launches by North Korea.

The content order was changed because “many people are interested in these topics at the moment,” explained Sanae Takaichi, chairperson of the LDP’s Policy Research Council.

“It also shows the essence of the LDP,” Takaichi added.

The pledge to boost the defense budget, with a figure of at least 2% of GDP in mind, was stipulated in the “policy bank” document that supplemented the party’s main manifesto for last year’s House of Representatives election. This time, it was included in the main text. With regards to counterstrike capability, the LDP last year used the expression “move forward with new efforts, including possession.” This has now been changed to “will possess, deter and take action.”

Measures to counter rising crude oil and other prices followed the diplomacy and security section in the manifesto. The LDP’s pledges focused on making day-to-day life easier, such as by providing wage increase support for small and midsize businesses and reducing the cost of children’s school lunches that made use of extraordinary regional revitalization grants.

“If public displeasure over rising prices grows, that could lead to protest votes cast against the LDP,” a veteran LDP official said, echoing a concern rumbling within the party. The manifesto even made a point of mentioning that inflation had been about “one-quarter the size of that in other major nations, such as the United States.”

The wording of the LDP’s plans for constitutional amendment also has been tweaked. The pledge for last year’s lower house election said the party would “deepen discussions on the Constitution, submit draft constitutional amendments to the Diet and make proposals.” In the latest manifesto, “deepen discussions on the Constitution” has been omitted. “The next step is to try to compile specific proposals,” a senior LDP official said.

Kishida’s signature policies of a new form of capitalism and the “digital garden city nation” initiative have been categorized as priorities, but treated more discreetly this time around compared with the manifesto for the lower house election. This was the result of greater focus being placed on more urgent issues.

“The content of those policies was vague,” an LDP insider also admitted. “So I think it would have been difficult to use them to appeal to voters during this election campaign.”