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Bringing economic results as a “party of the people”

January 6, 2016

Last year, the Liberal Democratic Party celebrated its 60th anniversary. This is the historic backdrop from which the Party embarks on new a stage of growth and development, meeting the expectations placed by citizens and communities around Japan as a mature "party of the people." Last year, the Diet passed a package of "peace and security legislation," which is essential for Japan to face rapid and drastic changes in the world. This year will be the year to produce economic results. The ordinary session of the Diet will be convened ahead of schedule to consider the FY2015 supplementary budget and the ordinary budget for FY2016. Also coming up in the summer is the 24th House of Councillors election, and with this in mind we spoke with Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki about the future of the Party and where it intends to go as it builds a stronger election structure and addresses the many important policy challenges facing Japan.

Q: The LDP is now 60 years old. What, in your opinion, are the hallmarks of a true "party of the people?"

Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki: As we embark on a new year, we need to look back at the foundations of the LDP and the declaration made when it was first established, that "politics must serve the public interest."

What we meant by "party of the people" at the time was a party that was not dominated by ideology, and particularly not by left-wing ideology. Today, we mean a party that responds to the hopes and desires of the people.

I was president of the Party when we were out of power, and traveled around the country to hold a series of "National Town Hall Meeting Caravan." I was impressed at the time by how hard Party members and local legislators were working to reflect the wants and desires of their communities in the political process, and it gave me the courage I needed to work towards bringing the LDP back to power. The Party has an incredible organization that covers every street corner of Japan, which is an asset that other parties are unable to emulate. That is what truly makes us a "party of the people."

As a political party, we need to be able to distinguish between our friends in our enemies, and collaborate with those with whom we are in agreement in order to achieve our policy objectives. We must also articulate common goals that the Japanese people can work towards, for example, "high economic growth," and to rally as many people as possible to their achievement. Indeed, I believe that this is the path that the LDP should take as a "party of the people."

Q: What are your thoughts about the early convention of the ordinary session of the Diet?

Tanigaki: Convening the session on January 4 may sound unusual, because in early January Diet members need to offer New Year's greetings and report on national politics before their constituents in local gatherings.

Last year, we extended the ordinary session of the Diet until September, and were forced to forgo an extraordinary session because of the Prime Minister's tight diplomatic schedule, which is why we want to get right into deliberations at the beginning of the year.

The Diet passed a package of "peace and security legislation" last year amidst an environment of increasingly frequent incidents of civilian casualties, such as the terrorist attack in Paris.

This year, Japan will welcome the leaders of major countries to the "Ise-Shima Summit" in May. Anti-terror measures are important, but so is further economic revitalization in the 2nd stage of "Abenomics," which will be one of the most important topics on the Diet's agenda this year.

Crucial in this endeavor will be the timely passage of the FY2015 supplementary budget and the FY2016 budget.

As we prepare for the increase of the consumption tax to 10% in April 2017, it is vital that we discuss the "positioning of reduced tax rates within the context of fiscal discipline."

After the budget passage, we will need to discuss policies to strengthen agriculture based on the framework agreement for the "Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP)" and measures to encourage the "dynamic engagement of all citizens."

Strongly encouraging young people to participate in politics

Q: The 24th House of Councillors election is coming up this summer. How do you plan to approach it?

Tanigaki: Our goal is to achieve victory for all candidates in both the constituency and proportional representatives.

The LDP-Komeito ruling coalition will continue to be crucial to the creation of a stable political environment that is able to safeguard Japan's peace and prosperity within the context of today's economic conditions and international circumstances.

There is often talk of "the ability to change ruling parties," but the opposition parties have failed to articulate a vision for the future, and it will therefore be necessary for us, as the ruling coalition, to prevail in the election and offer the people a responsible political system.

The Public Offices Election Act has been amended, and beginning this June, the voting age will be reduced to 18. This will add approximately 2.4 million new 18 and 19-year-olds to the voting rolls; how to engage them will be a particularly important issue.

The Party's Youth Division has established a "Headquarters for Younger Voter Programs" and also launched a "Real Youth Project" to promote interaction and strongly encourage young people to participate in the political process. We want to actively engage with young people and listen to what they have to say.

Steps to equalize the value of individual votes have resulted in the merger of electoral districts in Tottori Prefecture and Shimane Prefecture, and also in Tokushima Prefecture and Kochi Prefecture.

The LDP recognizes that the Japanese people have a special love for the prefectures in which they were born and raised, and we want to do everything possible to put candidates who represent their communities in positions of power.

There will be a by-election for the Lower House seat for the Hokkaido 5th district in April, and likely for the summer House of Councillors election, the Party will do everything possible to ensure the election of Mr. Yoshiaki Wada, the successor of former Speaker of the House of Representatives Nobutaka Machimura.

We will also be working in close coordination with the Prefectural Federations to ensure victory in local elections around the country, including the mayoral election in Ginowan (Okinawa) slated to take place on January 24.

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