After a couple of days of treading water, with party machinations seemingly playing on a loop, today saw the announcement by a number of parties of their election promises, manifestos, and policies.
We wil focus on Koike's party here. To what extent will she differentiate herself from Abe and the LDP? To what extent will the break from the Democrats be apparent?
And what elements will be, shall we say, 'uniquely Yuriko's'?
With a little bit of time to assess today's announcement, there are elements which appear to be genuine attempts at policy reform, some elements which seem frivolous, almost laughing at the polity, and finally, branding this move as very much Koike's, perhaps her personal antagonism towards the LDP and especially PM Abe.
First, to what she refers to as the 'three key pillars': freezing the consumption tax (Abe continues to hedge but ultimately plans to raise it); reducing nuclear power plants to zero by 2030; and to debate constitutional revision. On this last point, while her political position suggests that revision is inevitable and desired, she has nuanced her policy to imply a level of political and public consultation that the Abe government would appear to be denying the polity. It is a clever nuance at first glance, but how well it would be implemented is quite another question. It is unlikely Koike would be open to a change of heart if the public debate went against her preferred path.
Now to the, what shall we call them...frivolous, catchy, tidbits? With the Japanese proclivity to put 'zero' on things, part of her policy announcement included 12 'zero' policies, reducing or eliminating a list of issues which will no doubt, individually, appeal to sections of the electorate but how that kind of atomisation works as a whole? We will wait and see.
Key among the twelve, and one which garnered the most media interest was the elimination of hayfever...good luck with that. Others include ending of crowded trains (something she is attempting at Tokyo governor, employing a similar strategy to her successful 'cool biz' strategy from her environment minister days), ending passive smoking, food loss/waste, and an end to telegraph poles (a long-held ambition of hers).
Finally, to the branding. 'Yurinomics'. A portmanteau word of her given name 'Yuriko' and 'economics'. It is a direct response to what has become known as 'Abenomics', Abe's brand of economic reform, but also sits with historical examples of Thatchernomics, Reaganomics and the like. It suggests a petty attack on Abe (we all know of their antagonism towards each other, don't draw attention to it), it lacks imagination, it suggests, as with the precedents, a neo-liberal economic philosophy, and given Abenomics failure over the last few years, well, it suggests failure too.
|Source: Tokyo Shimbun online|
On constitutional revision, Kibo is closer to the LDP as expected.
How will the electorate respond? Or rather, how will the swinging, uncommitted voters respond? There will be some difficult political choices for voters to make. The addition of 12 zeros might just be a savvy ploy to offer sweeteners to those who sit on the fence.
As a political play, I would have almost reached for the 5-star cup but for the 'Yurinomics' call. And among the 12 zeros are a number of 'hot air balloons' which will only float away, unrealised, nay, unrealisable.
This weekend will be busy behind the scenes as the various parties shore up their candidates before Tuesday's formal announcement. We can only 'hope', pardon the pun, that talk will turn to genuine policy debate after the scrambling for positions over the last ten days...