Leaders of major political parties on Saturday denounced each other’s policies on the economy and the Japanese Constitution as they wound down their campaigns for Sunday’s House of Councillors election.
While the opposition parties have focused on blocking Abe’s ambition to amend the pacifist Constitution, the ruling bloc has downplayed talk of constitutional reform and kept the focus on continuing with the “Abenomics” monetary and fiscal policy strategy, despite an unclear global economic outlook.
Addressing a rally in Tokyo’s Sugamo district, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to bring prosperity to the country.
“Abenomics has by no means failed,” he said.
At stake are half the 242 seats in the Diet’s upper house, as staggered elections are held every three years for seats with six-year terms. A total of 389 candidates are running for the 121 seats up for grabs through a mix of constituencies and proportional representation.
Together, Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and junior partner Komeito aim to win at least half of the contested seats.
Abe pressed the flesh in Sugamo after filming a video for Facebook earlier Saturday entitled “Final Appeal.”
“We must firmly protect this country called Japan, and rebuild the economy,” Abe said.
Meanwhile, main opposition Democratic Party leader Katsuya Okada pledged in the capital’s Tsukiji area to “fight in the Diet, reflecting everyone’s voice.”
“The prime minister uses the sheer power of numbers to steamroll (opponents) without proper debate,” Okada said.
“We cannot let the LDP achieve any further victory,” he said.
The Democratic Party has looked past its policy differences with the Japanese Communist Party and smaller opposition parties to jointly back just individual candidates in all 32 of the contested single-member electoral districts.
The election has the potential to install enough pro-reform lawmakers from the ruling bloc and smaller parties in the upper house to make up the two-thirds majority required to propose a national plebiscite on altering the Constitution.
Okada warned such a powerful majority would mean the country “will no longer be a normal democracy in which we debate (issues) in the Diet and build a consensus.”
Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi slammed the opposition’s united approach at a rally in Kobe in western Japan, saying the country cannot afford to entrust politics to the Democratic Party and JCP.
“I can’t see them taking any responsibility after the upper house election is over,” Yamaguchi said.
Campaigning in Yokohama, JCP leader Kazuo Shii said the Japanese economy has entered an “Abenomics recession.”
“Let us correct disparities and eliminate poverty,” Shii said.
In Osaka, Initiatives from Osaka leader Ichiro Matsui told constituents that his party’s commitment is to “make sure taxpayers are satisfied with the way their taxes are used.”
In Oita, southwestern Japan, Social Democratic Party leader Tadatomo Yoshida said that his party will do its utmost “to build a country based on the pacifist constitution.”
People’s Life Party co-leader Ichiro Ozawa and Party for the Japanese Kokoro leader Kyoko Nakayama also each extolled their parties’ values and promises in separate speeches.
A 65-year-old man who was listening to Abe’s speech in Asakusa district, central Tokyo, said he does not believe employment has recovered since the previous Democratic Party of Japan administration, and he hopes the ruling bloc will promote economic policies.
Constitutional reform has not been stressed during the campaign as the “premier probably knows that it has not won support from the public,” he added.
The upper house race is the first national election in which Japan’s 18- and 19-year-olds are able to vote, following an amendment to the electoral law lowering the minimum age from 20.
Another amendment has seen constituency boundaries redrawn to address a wide disparity in the relative weight of votes between electoral districts, which led the Supreme Court to label the last upper house election “in a state of unconstitutionality.”