_ DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF JAPAN
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's party, which swept to power in 2009, has made the main focus of its platform reconstruction from the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters. It has pledged to phase out reliance on nuclear power by the 2030s, create more than 4 million jobs by 2020 and boost Japan's competitiveness while improving social services. The party says it would deepen its alliance with the U.S. and reform politics to restore public trust. The Democratic Party backs Japan's participation in the U.S.-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a region-wide free-trade initiative, to help the economy by expanding market access.
_ LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY
The conservative Liberal Democrats, front-runners in this election, ruled Japan for most of the post-World War II era before ceding power to the largely LDP breakaway Democratic Party in 2009. Led by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the party wants a "restoration" of Japan's economic strength, educational reforms and a more nationalist approach to Japan's foreign policy, especially toward China. Its platform calls for more spending on public works and more monetary easing to stimulate growth. The party generally has supported use of nuclear power and has said it would accept the TPP, but only with guarantees of protection for farmers and some other industries. The LDP is also pushing for revisions to the constitution that would rename the Self-Defense Forces to call them a military – taboo since World War II – and allow for Japanese troops to engage in "collective self-defense" operations with allies that are not necessarily related to Japan's self-defense.
_ JAPAN RESTORATION PARTY
A right-leaning coalition led by two maverick politicians with no experience in foreign policy – 80-year-old former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara and 43-year-old Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto – the Restoration Party supports giving local governments more say over their finances and policies. It proposed using an inheritance tax to fund pension programs. It also wants to amend the constitution to elect the prime minister by popular vote, abolish the upper house of parliament and scrap a post-World War II ban on involvement in wars that prevents Japan from defending troops of its pre-eminent ally, the United States. Divided on the nuclear issue, the party has left its stance on that issue ambiguous, but has opted to support Japan's participation in the TPP.
_ TOMORROW PARTY
Led by Yukiko Kada, the pro-green governor of western Japan's Shiga prefecture, the Tomorrow Party offers itself as a new alternative, drawing support from the grass-roots anti-nuclear movement. Its clean government image has been compromised, however, by its ties with veteran lawmaker and power broker Ichiro Ozawa, who left the DPJ earlier this year. The party opposes the TPP, favoring separate free trade agreements, and wants to phase out nuclear power within a decade. It also opposes a recently approved doubling of the sales tax to 10 percent, advocates more support for families, the poor and elderly, and wants more career opportunities for women.
_ NEW KOMEITO PARTY
Komeito is backed by the large lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai and many small business owners. The party has joined past coalitions with the Liberal Democrats, and its peace-oriented, anti-nuclear weapons stance might help balance out their more hawkish views. Komeito favors a longer phase-out, over 40 years, of nuclear power. On the economy, it opposes the TPP but supports other free trade pacts, while urging more support for farmers, small businesses, renewable energy and tourism.