TEXT OF STORY
Steve Chiotakis: Fresh news today that big changes are ahead for Japan. Voters there go to the polls in ten days. And the Asahi newspaper predicts the opposition could take a whopping 300 of the 480 seats in parliament. Is it sayonara to the ruling party after five decades of control? Marketplace’s Scott Tong reports on what each camp is promising.
Scott Tong: The big challenge facing both parties is getting people’s attention, according to political observer Jeff Kingston who teaches at Temple University in Tokyo. The other day he asked his Japanese neighbor if he cares about this race.
Jeff Kingston: He just rolled his eyes, smiled, and said it’s kind of like the difference between curry rice and rice curry.
Opposition challenger Yukio Hatoyama of the Democratic Party of Japan wants to shake things up and bounce the party that’s ruled for five decades. This gives us the opportunity to change history, he says, and change the political leadership. The DPJ wants to cut taxes and school fees. And boost domestic consumption. Many voters are yearning for something different, after two decades of economic stagnation. Masaru Tamamoto in the port city of Yokohama is with the World Policy Institute.
Masaru Tamamoto: The promise of lifetime employment is gone. Wages are much lower than before. What we’re looking for is a new social contract.
The DPJ offers fresh blood, but it has own problems: Its candidate for prime minister has a low approval rating. And lately a list of its political donors included the names of dead people. The incumbent prime minister, Taro Aso of the Liberal Democratic Party, says in trying economic times, you need a party with experience.
Taro Aso: The LDP will continue our policies to boost economic growth. Have you seen anything similar from the DPJ?
That message may get through to voters like this 41-year-old businessman in Tokyo.
Forty-one-year-old businessman: I care about pension reform, workers’ benefits, and solving our aging society issues. I will want to select the party that can deliver on these.
But the LDP’s record is mixed; it ballooned the country’s debt. Political scientist Jeff Kingston thinks it now wants to pass on a weak economy to its opponents.
Jeff Kingston: The LDP is banking on the fact that they’re handing the poisoned chalice to the DPJ.
The ruling party trails by double digits in opinion polls. But lots of Japanese are undecided. And some analysts think the LDP could still pull off a political miracle.
I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.
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