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DPJ, JIP split over constitutional revision and TPP

(Nikkei: February 25, 2016 – p. 4)

 

 The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and the Japan Innovation Party (JIP), which are aiming to merge in the middle of March, plan to expedite arrangements on policies for the House of Councillors in the summer. The main opposition party and the smaller opposition party are both in favor of raising the consumption tax rate and eliminating nuclear power generation in the future. However, the two opposition parties are split over their approaches to constitutional revision and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal. If they place priority on bridging the gaps, there is concern that it will be difficult for them to clearly differentiate themselves from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The DPJ and the JIP will be forced to make difficult decisions.

 

 Last December, the two parties reached an agreement on seven basic policies such as foreign policy and national security last December when they formed a parliamentary group in the House of Representatives. The seven basic policies will serve as materials for making adjustments. JIP leader Yorihisa Matsuno said on Feb. 24 in a meeting of all party members: “This agreement will become the basis.”

 

 On Feb. 24, the two parties jointly submitted to the Diet a bill designed to introduce tax exemption with benefits instead of reduced tax rates. They have drawn up a common understanding to oppose the tax increase premised on the introduction of lower tax rates. They also agreed to aim at ending all operations of nuclear reactors by the 2030s.

 

 Constitutional revision will likely become a source of contention. The DPJ contains one group of members calling for protecting the present Constitution, and another group advocating revision of the Constitution. There is a major gap between the DPJ and the JIP, in which the majority of members are calling for constitutional amendment. All the more since the new party’s stance on constitutional revision will have a bearing on the basis of their merger, the two parties’ basic policy only stipulates, “We will aim to revise clauses as needed to respond to changes in the times, including local autonomy.”

 

 The two parties jointly submitted to the Diet proposals to counter the security related laws and they also submitted together with other opposition parties a bill to scrap the security legislation. Their problem is the right to collective self-defense. Although exercising the right to collective self-defense for protecting U.S. vessels during a contingency on the Korean Peninsula is allowed under the security laws, the JIP has insisted that it is possible to deal with such situations by expanding the scope of the right to individual self-defense. Since there are both advocates and opponents for allowing Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense in the DPJ, the party needs to conduct coordination.

 

 The DPJ is leaning toward opposing the TPP agreement, arguing that key farm products, including rice” are not sufficiently protected. But in the JIP, many lawmakers are in favor of the TPP deal. This will likely become an issue on which the two parties will need to make adjustments.

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