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DEMOCRACY
'Jack Bauer', 'Japanese Macron': Colourful candidates in Japan vote
By Kyoko HASEGAWA
Tokyo (AFP) Oct 19, 2017


Five key battlegrounds in Japan election
"Abenomics", post-Fukushima nuclear policy, tax and North Korea: These are the main battlegrounds of Sunday's election in Japan that pits Prime Minister Shinzo Abe against an upstart opposition led by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.

Here are the policies of the two main figures on the key issues:

- 'Abenomics' vs 'Yurinomics'

The main election battle is over how to expand growth and rekindle inflation in the world's number three economy.

ABE: For the prime minister, it's all about "Abenomics", his trademark economic policy that combines aggressive monetary easing and huge government spending with reforms to the world's third-largest economy.

"Abenomics" has fattened corporate profits and sent the stock market to two-decade highs but so far failed to fix deflation, and critics charge that the effects have not trickled down to ordinary Japanese households.

KOIKE: With a former TV presenter's eye for a media soundbite, Koike has dubbed her economic policy "Yurinomics," which aims to avoid the heavy reliance on public spending and monetary easing preferred by her opponent.

Instead, Koike aims to stimulate the economy by slashing red tape and setting up special economic zones.

- Nuclear energy -

In a country still scarred by the Fukushima disaster in 2011, nuclear energy policy is one of main areas of clearly defined difference between the two candidates.

ABE: Vows to continue promoting nuclear energy, calling it essential to powering the Japanese economy. His government and utility firms have been pushing to switch back on nuclear reactors shut down after the Fukushima meltdown.

KOIKE: Pledges to phase out nuclear power in Japan by 2030 and enshrine a no-nuclear policy in the constitution. However, she acknowledges that for now, mothballed nuclear power plants will need to be restarted.

- Tax -

Abe called the election ostensibly because he wanted to get voters' approval for a change in how the proceeds from a planned sales tax hike were going to be spent.

ABE: Wants to use a larger proportion of the extra cash from the hike (from eight percent to 10 percent) on greater financial support for childcare, including making pre-school nurseries free, as the country battles a falling birth rate.

KOIKE: Promised to freeze the planned sales tax hike, which she says would put the brake on the Japanese economy now marking the longest period of expansion in more than a decade.

Instead, she proposes a broader corporate tax and the sale of more state assets to make up the hole in the coffers.

- Constitutional change -

ABE: Wants to push through the first-ever change in the US-imposed constitution to make a specific mention of the country's Self-Defense Forces. He also wants to enshrine his free education scheme in the document.

KOIKE: Declines to write the military into the constitution, which bans the officially pacifist nation from maintaining land, sea and air forces. She says her party will decide after confirming popular support for the issue.

But the former defence minister seeks to promote discussions on a revision of Article 9 of the constitution, which requires Japan to renounce war.

- North Korea -

ABE: For the prime minister, the threat posed by North Korea is the top political priority. Abe proposes to beef up the nation's defence system and boost the Japan-US military alliance, which has been reinforced by controversial new laws that could see Japanese troops fight abroad for the first time since the end of World War II.

KOIKE: The opposition leader has taken a low-profile stance on the North Korean crisis, only promising to tackle "Japan's severe security environment regardless of party affiliation."

As Tokyo governor, Koike has vowed to cooperate with Abe's central government since a North Korean missile flew over northern Japan last month.

From an opposition leader dubbed "Jack Bauer" to a gaffe-prone finance minister who referenced Adolf Hitler when talking about leaving a political legacy, Japan's election has thrown up some colourful characters.

- Yukio Edano -

Edano, leader of the new centre-left Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, won fame as chief cabinet secretary during the country's 2011 tsunami disaster, briefing reporters every day, often at odd hours and earning respect for his work ethic.

A twitter campaign at the time was set up to persuade him to get some rest, with people tweeting "Please Edano, go to bed" and some foreign media nicknaming him "Jack Bauer" -- from the hit TV drama series "24" -- for working around the clock.

Edano announced the launch of the new centre-left party just days before the election campaign officially started, unleashing an attack on Shinzo Abe and vowing to stop what he described as the prime minister's "abuse of power".

- Taro Aso -

Finance minister and deputy prime minister, Aso is known for a long list of gaffes and controversial remarks during a nearly four-decade career in parliament.

Earlier this year, the 77-year-old came under fire for citing Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in a bizarre reference about the importance of leaving a legacy in politics.

Aso -- whose previous comments include criticising women who don't have children and saying old people should "hurry up and die" to save healthcare costs -- later retracted the comments but refused to quit.

Last month he stirred controversy by saying Japan should seriously consider shooting down potential "armed refugees" if hundreds of thousands fled North Korea to Japan.

It was unclear what he meant by "armed refugees."

Aso served as prime minister from 2008 to 2009 before his Liberal Democratic Party was ousted from office.

He is the grandson of Shigeru Yoshida, one of Japan's most influential prime ministers who helped rebuild the country from the ashes of World War II.

- Shinjiro Koizumi -

The telegenic and flamboyant Shinjiro Koizumi has drawn huge crowds to campaign rallies and has been suggested as a possible future leader.

Dubbed by some media as "Japan's Macron", referring to France's president, the 36-year-old has inherited the rhetorical skills of his father, the popular former leader Junichiro Koizumi.

Like his father, Koizumi Jr has a reputation for "one-phrase politics", using a snappy slogan that resonates with grassroots voters.

A sweet bearing his likeness is the second-biggest selling souvenir in the parliament gift shop -- behind sweets showing Abe's face -- store manager Shinzo Terada told AFP.

They are "particularly popular among women," he revealed.

- Mayuko Toyota -

The 43-year-old Harvard graduate was once seen as an up-and-coming member of the ruling LDP but resigned in June after an audio tape emerged of her violently attacking a male secretary, reportedly threatening to crush his head with a lead pipe.

She has decided to run as an independent in this election, sparking considerable media attention.

Every day, the very contrite Toyota goes to a railway station and bows deeply in apology to voters.

She has changed her image from a pink pantsuit -- which earned her the nickname "pink monster" -- to simple white and told supporters at a campaign rally that her heart was "on the verge of collapse" over the scandal.

- Yuriko Koike -

Even though she is not running for national office this time, the media-savvy veteran is definitely the story of the campaign, transforming the sleepy political landscape with her "Party of Hope."

Posters of the popular Tokyo governor are everywhere and candidates for the party are pictured standing alongside the telegenic 65-year-old.

Her campaign video set the tone, with an elegant lady (presumed to be Koike) shoving her way past old men in suits and leading her supporters into the light.

But her momentum faltered after an initial burst of excitement as critics accused her of a dictatorial approach to managing her new party and she effectively split the opposition to Abe.

kh/ric/eb/kaf

JAPAN AIRLINES

DEMOCRACY
Abe on course for landslide win in Japan vote: poll
Tokyo (AFP) Oct 16, 2017
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is on track for a landslide win in Japan's upcoming election, the latest survey suggested Monday, as a new party founded by Tokyo's popular governor loses momentum. Abe's conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is projected to win as many as 303 of the 465 seats up for grabs in the October 22 election, according to a poll by the Mainichi Shimbun. Its junior ... read more

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