Attempts over the last decade to emphasize the importance of clear policy platforms in Japanese elections seem to have come full circle. Baffled voters in the current campaign are facing a bewildering array of candidates and a muddle of issues in Sunday’s upper house poll. With newspapers and Internet sites vying to give voters clearer ideas on which candidates to vote for, an independent political think tank has judged the election manifestos of Japan’s main parties to be the worst in years. In a study published on its website Wednesday, Genron NPO dissected the election platforms of the nine national parties contending the election, as it has done for the last seven elections since 2003. In a thorough analysis, it graded each manifesto for elements such as clarity of goals, achievability, relevancy and presentation on 12 main issues, including fiscal, economic, social security, energy, diplomatic and agricultural policy. The results were the equivalent of straight F grades for all the parties. On a scale of 1 to 100, the best manifesto was judged to be the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s with 29 points. Its coalition partner New Komeito scored 21, Your Party came in at 21 points, and the Democratic Party of Japan placed fourth at 16 points.
“The overall scores for the nine parties were at an unprecedented low,” the organization said in its report. “The biggest reason for it is that the political parties seem to be lacking the awareness or will to consider their election platforms as issue resolution programs. Instead they have returned to the abstract promises of past campaigns. This was especially evident among the opposition parties.”
The dismal failure of the previous DPJ administration to stick to its bold pledges in the 2009 general election appears to have fueled a return to the familiar vague promises and a lack of specifics in Japanese election platforms.
The DPJ first championed the notion of a manifesto election in the 2003 upper house election and its 2009 victory in some ways was the culmination of that process, although Genron notes a slide in manifesto ratings from 2005, when the DPJ scored the highest manifesto rating of 43.3.