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Japan's ruling party pledges 2% growth in election platform

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party decided Thursday on a campaign platform for next month's upper house election, pledging to achieve an average real 2 percent economic growth over the next decade with a set of policy measures.

The platform, finalized by the ruling party's general council, also shows Abe's intention to restart nuclear power generation in Japan despite public concerns following the 2011 Fukushima crisis, and to revise the nation's pacifist Constitution, a move that could make other Asian countries nervous.

The election for the House of Councillors, which will not lead to any change of government, is scheduled for July 21, with official campaign starting July 4.

The campaign pledges reflect the growth strategy of Abe's administration, aimed at overcoming nearly two decades of deflation while encouraging private-sector investment with various incentives.

"We've started to see brightness in the economy, which had fallen to the depths of a slump, with policies of the Abe Cabinet and the LDP," the party's Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba said at a press conference, referring to Abe having introduced flexible budget spending and endorsing bolder monetary stimulus by the Bank of Japan.

"It's our duty to let all Japanese people feel (the economic upturn)," Ishiba added.

The targeting of 2 percent growth comes after the Japanese economy expanded 1.9 percent last year in terms of gross domestic product adjusted for price changes, following a 0.6 percent contraction in 2011 and 4.7 percent growth in 2010.

The LDP platform says the party will legislate economic measures to make domestic industries more internationally competitive. It specifically promises tax reductions for companies increasing their capital spending.

The platform also mentions a 10-year plan to double incomes for farmers -- traditional supporters of the LDP -- and the promotion of public work projects to make infrastructure more disaster-proof, which will benefit the construction sector, another crucial basis of votes for the party.

Given the need for balancing fiscal stimulus and austerity, the governing party also says it will maintain Japan's goal, pledged internationally, of achieving a primary balance surplus by March 2021. A surplus would mean the government can forgo new bond issuance in budget spending, excepting costs for servicing existing debt.

But the LDP platform does not refer to the planned sales tax hike starting next April, apparently trying to prevent the issue from become a focal point in the upcoming election. Abe has said he will finalize a view in the fall on whether the tax should be raised, considering the economic situation.

As Abe has championed revising the Constitution, the party says it aims to implement a draft revision plan, including relaxing rules for initiating a revision.

The premier's stance on seeking to revise the war-renouncing Constitution has triggered criticism from many opposition parties, while making nervous some Asian countries that experienced Japanese wartime brutality, most notably China and South Korea, as they have increasingly perceived a shift to the right in Japanese politics under Abe's leadership.

On energy policy, the platform may fuel expectations Japan will remain dependent on nuclear power, even though the 2011 crisis at the tsunami-swamped Fukushima Daiichi plant sparked strong public calls for the government to review the policy.

"We will make maximum efforts to obtain understanding from local governments hosting nuclear power plants that have been confirmed as safe to restart operations," the platform says, while adding the safety of plants will be assessed by the independent Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The party also says it will stick to the Japan-U.S. plan to relocate the U.S. Marines' Futenma Air Station within Okinawa Prefecture, despite opposition from local residents who want it moved outside the island prefecture, which hosts the bulk of U.S. military bases in Japan.

==Kyodo

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/kyodo-news-international/130620/japans-ruling-party-pledges-2-growth-election-platform