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Japan ruling party to announce political manifesto

JAPAN'S ruling party will release its campaign platform today that is expected to mimic the opposition's that had promises of cash handouts for children and farmers as the wooing of voters heats up for next month's elections.

The pro-US, conservative Liberal Democrats have ruled Japan almost continuously for the last half-century, but have fallen out of favor with a public disenchanted by the economic crisis and a gaffe-prone prime minister.

Analysts say the opposition Democratic Party could seize power - perhaps even by a landslide - in the Aug. 30 parliamentary election.

Campaign pledges may not be new in other industrialized nations, but the luring of voters through documents with specific numbers, proposals and timelines is unprecedented in Japan.

Earlier this week, Democratic leader Yukio Hatoyama unveiled his party's 23-page "manifesto," promising cash payments of 26,000 yen (US$270) per child, toll-free highways, better pension pay, handouts for farmers and a free high-school education.

The campaign document also promised to eliminate waste in government spending, including dams and roads that were crucial policies over the decades of Liberal Democratic rule.

After being largely ineffective for the past 50-plus years, the main opposition has captured voters' attention.

"What is new today is that Japan has, for the first time since the American occupation, a credible opposition party," Karel van Wolferen, a Japan expert who wrote the book "The Engima of Japanese Power," said.

The Liberal Democrats have proven ineffective in dealing with today's issues and voters are getting frustrated, he said.

The Liberal Democratic Party said Prime Minister Taro Aso will hold a news conference at Tokyo party headquarters later Friday to announce its "manifesto."

Japanese media reports said it promises free preschools and a cleanup of a scandal-marred pension system. The party declined comment on the reports, but the Liberal Democrats have criticized the Democrats' manifesto as empty and with impractical promises.

The Yomiuri, Japan's top newspaper, reported Wednesday that the Liberal Democrats will promise to raise disposable income by 1 million yen (US$10,000) for each household in the next 10 years.


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