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Opposition to focus on family finances, LDP on foreign, defense policy in upper house race

This file photo shows the National Diet Building in Tokyo. (Mainichi/Masahiro Kawata)

TOKYO -- Key opposition parties in Japan are focusing on household budgets amid a decline in real wages as a key point of contention in the upcoming House of Councillors election, while the ruling coalition is highlighting foreign and defense policy on top of its ability to hold the reins of government and its achievements for the past 6 1/2 years.

The various points of contention came into view as all seven major political parties released their campaign promises for the July 21 election. Other issues are expected to include the consumption tax hike from the current 8% to 10% scheduled for October, the pension shortage debate sparked by a Financial Services Agency (FSA) panel report stating that an average elderly couple would need 20 million yen in addition to their public pension benefits to fund a 30-year post-retirement life, and constitutional amendment, a pet goal of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The seven parties are: the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner Komeito, the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), the Democratic Party for the People (DPFP), the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

The LDP is underscoring Japan's recent hosting of the Group of 20 summit meeting in Osaka, the first ever G-20 summit to be held in the country, as well as its close ties with U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as "accomplishments."

"We will lead solidarity and rule-making in the international community and protect our country's safety and national interests," the LDP's election pledge reads. It also states that Prime Minister Abe is playing a leading role in the world community as his administration has been running the second longest among the Group of Seven major economies, topped only by that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The opposition camp, meanwhile, has lashed out at the Abe administration over a lack of household consumption growth under the administration's signature "Abenomics" economic policy mix.

The CDP specifically calls for raising minimum wages and turning non-regular employees into part of the regular workforce. The DPFP is advocating economic revitalization through measures supporting household budgets, such as boosting childcare allowances and rent subsidies.

Finance Minister and Financial Services Minister Taro Aso's refusal to accept the FSA panel's report on the shortage of pension funds has also become fodder for criticism against the ruling bloc. The JCP points out in its campaign agenda, "There is mounting anger over the Abe administration's stance of pretending that a report that is inconvenient to the administration never existed."

Constitutional revision looks likely to be one of the major campaign issues, as Prime Minister Abe has argued that legislators have the responsibility to discuss the supreme law. While the LDP aspires to write the existence of the Self-Defense Forces into war-renouncing Article 9 of the Constitution, the CDP and DPFP are opposed to the move, with even Komeito of the ruling camp maintaining reservations about the LDP's plan.

In a related move, the Japan National Press Club is organizing a debate between party leaders on July 3, and broadcasters are also planning such debates in their TV program lineups.

(Japanese original by Kei Sato and Shinya Hamanaka, Political News Department)

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