Political parties tweak campaign policies to win youth vote

Political parties are making a push to win over more young people a year after the country’s voting age was lowered to 18 from 20.

Both the ruling and opposition parties are putting forward policies to attract the younger generation with promises to provide greater educational opportunities and support job seekers, while increasing opportunities to interact with new voters.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has distributed pamphlets encouraging young voters to participate more in politics. The leaflets tout the achievements of its leader, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, including the launch of a grant-type scholarship program.

To attract more young people, the LDP has established student divisions in 22 of its regional chapters, including Tokyo, and plans to set up more.

Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, is highlighting its efforts to protect students with part-time jobs from so-called black companies with exploitative working conditions, and to support those seeking full-time employment.

It also wants to make high school tuition-free and improve labor conditions for nursery teachers.

Komeito has asked Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike for her support because it is teaming up with her new political party, Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First), in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, will be held on July 2.

At a June 15 event held in Tokyo by the Democratic Party, the largest opposition force, DP leader Renho exchanged views with some 150 high school girls.

“There can be more female and young politicians, not only old men,” she told them.

The DP has drafted legislation to make high schools and nursery schools for children 3 or older tuition-free.

At an April seminar organized by the Japanese Communist Party, JCP leader Kazuo Shii explained the opposition party’s policy platform to students. In a booklet aimed at the younger generation, the party laid out its positions on the national overtime problem and tax hikes for the wealthy.

“We hope we can make changes,” said Akira Koike, head of the JCP’s secretariat. He said the JCP was inspired by the recent general election in Britain, where Labor put in a strong performance backed by support from the young.

Key policies put forth by Nippon Ishin no Kai, another opposition party, included lowering the age of eligibility for public office to 18.

“We regularly exchange views with young people and make use of this to draw up policies,” said Nobuyuki Baba, the party’s secretary-general.

Tomin First’s campaign pledges for the metropolitan assembly election include providing matchmaking support for young people who want to get married and reducing congestion on rush-hour trains.