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Abe looks for election victory amid public skepticism


08:13, July 05, 2013

TOKYO, July 4 (Xinhua) -- Campaign for Japan's upper house election began Thursday as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to gain control of the chamber. However, Japanese people have showed their doubt on his policies, especially the "Abenomics ".

Abe kicked off his campaign in Fukushima Prefecture, the site of a devastating earthquake and tsunami-triggered nuclear disaster that threw the nation into panic and disarray under the former Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) two years ago.

The prime minister vowed that he was responsible for speeding up the restoration process in regions still reeling in the wake of the earthquake and nuclear disasters, rescuing the nation from its economic doldrums and reversing the nation's decades-old deflationary state.

Abe said that under the "divided Diet", economic progress and reconstruction advancements cannot be made swiftly, but added that with his administration controlling both chambers, essential reforms could be made promptly for the betterment of the nation.

"Thanks to everyone's strength, politics has changed and the economy has begun to move. We will win the election, end the twisted parliament and deliver visible results that you can see," Abe was quoted as saying, while pointing to Japan's 4.1 percent annual economic growth rate in the first quarter.

In Tokyo Thursday afternoon, speaking at a street near the Yurakucho station, Abe also highlighted the "Abenomics" as his major achievements since he returned to power last December, when his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its key ally, the New Komeito Party, set a clear victory in the lower house election.

"There's still a large degree of apathy amongst the Japanese public regarding politics, but it would appear that the new buzzword 'Abenomics' has sparked some hope that perhaps Abe is the man to affect economic change here where many of his predecessors have failed in deadlocked debates in parliament," political analyst Teruhisa Muramatsu told Xinhua.

However, Muramatsu added that "in addition, many people feel that there is currently no viable alternative to Abe and his LDP, due to the shortcomings of the main opposition DPJ failing to deliver on campaign pledges when they were in power."

A retired teacher who identified herself only with Asami told Xinhua that Abe's economic policies only benefits the business tycoons and their bosses, rather than bringing tangible interests to small plants and the majority of Japanese people.

If the ruling coalition garners the requisite votes needed to seize total control of the upper house later this month, it would effectively give them control of both chambers of parliament and possibly for as long as three years.

This is provided that early elections are not called and in the words of Abe such a victory would enable the prime minister to end years of logjams in what he has repeatedly described as a "twisted " parliament.

"The LDP is probably to win the upper house, but I do not want to see an overwhelming victory as a big winning will make the party more arrogant," said Asami.

Abe's main detractor, Banri Kaieda, leader of the main opposition DPJ has also voiced concern over Abe's ambitions, stating that the prime minister's economic policy could wreak havoc on the lives and livelihoods of the Japanese people.

Kaieda, along with other opposition members, believe that " Abenomics" will ultimately lead to far higher consumer prices, at a time when wages have been largely frozen and consumption tax will likely be hiked.

Opponents of Abe have also claimed that the prime minister's economic assurances are merely an elaborate rouse to gain enough clout from the voters in the short-term, before getting back to his main agenda of changing Japan's pacifist constitution to enable the nation's "self defense force" to become a fully national army.

"Abe makes no secret of the fact that he is extremely right- leaning when it comes to his political ideologies," said political commentator and author Philip McNeil.

"And along with a number of his senior ministers, harbors nationalistic convictions, evidenced by his ministers' visits to a controversial shrine honoring war criminals, along with his own potential visit soon, this at a time when geopolitical tensions with Japan's neighbors continue to escalate," McNeil told Xinhua, referring to intense territorial disputes with China and South Korea.

However, opposition parties will be hard-pushed to chip away at the support rate for Abe's government in the run-up to the upper house election, but along with Your Party's anti-bureaucrat-led political stance, the Japanese Communist Party going on the offensive for the rights of ordinary citizens, the Green Wind Party battling for women's rights and the Social Democratic Party standing staunchly opposed to Abe revising the constitution in their campaigns, the nuclear energy debate could be the one that derails Abe's mission.

"All the main opposition parties are united in their bid to end atomic energy in Japan -- a position that resonates with the majority of citizens here in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster," Muramatsu pointed out.

"All of the parties have said that they want to phase out the use of nuclear power here at some point, whereas Abe and the LDP alone have stated that they want the aged nuclear reactors here brought back online as soon as they've passed safety tests," he said.

"While the LDP's victory this month may be something of a foregone conclusion, this issue could still prove a thorn in Abe and his LDP's side," he concluded.

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