Abe Steers Clear of Tricky Defense Topic in Election Pamphlet

  • Pamphlet does not mention changing pacifist constitution
  • Ruling LDP focuses on economic, diplomatic achievements

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to campaign on the economy in next month’s upper house election, avoiding any mention of the divisive issue of his defense policy in a pamphlet obtained by Bloomberg ahead of publication.

Under the slogan: "We will move Japan forward strongly," the pamphlet lists positive changes in the economy, such as improved job availability, growth in tax revenue and a fall in bankruptcies. It also shows pictures of Abe with U.S. President Barack Obama, South Korean President Park Geun Hye and other global leaders.

Raising the minimum wage, and providing increased preschool child care and elderly care are among the goals listed. There’s no mention of changing Japan’s pacifist constitution, something Abe has said previously that he hopes to achieve.

While Abe’s ruling coalition led by the Liberal Democratic Party is expected to retain the upper house in the July 10 vote, the contents of the pamphlet suggest he will put contentious issues on the back burner ahead of the election. Instead, the LDP looks set to focus on Abenomics and policies aimed at struggling families.

Abe’s reinterpretation of the charter last year to expand the remit of the military sparked uproar in parliament, divided the electorate and set off large demonstrations in Tokyo. That’s even as tensions with China remain high over disputed territory in the East China Sea, and as China expands its military presence more broadly in the western Pacific.

The Democratic Party and other opposition groups are seeking to make his defense policy a focus of their campaign. They have vowed to prevent him from gaining the two thirds majority in both houses of parliament needed to allow him to begin the process of constitutional revision.

"The Abe administration talks about the economy before elections, then pushes ahead with security policy after winning," DP policy chief Shiori Yamao said in an interview Tuesday. "We want to let the people know that this is the hidden agenda."

Tomomi Inada, the policy chief of the LDP, said at a June 3 briefing that while constitutional change was a founding principle of the party, it would not be a focus of the campaign this time.

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