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Japan PM Kishida vows 'large' economic stimulus as by-election campaigns start

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida delivers remarks in Shizuoka on Oct. 7, 2021, in support of a candidate backed by his ruling Liberal Democratic Party as campaigning began for House of Councillors by-elections. (Kyodo)

SHIZUOKA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Thursday said he will follow through with his pledge to deliver a "large-scale" stimulus package to give Japan's pandemic-hit economy a shot in the arm as campaigning started for two upper house by-elections.

    The Oct. 24 by-elections in Shizuoka and Yamaguchi prefectures will allow voters to make their feelings known about the new administration launched by the prime minister this week, ahead of a general election at the end of the month.

    "I strongly feel that I need to carry out a large-scale economic stimulus or a large-scale coronavirus response, and I need people to judge whether to let me do so through elections," Kishida said in a stump speech delivered in the city of Shizuoka for a candidate backed by his Liberal Democratic Party.

    Kishida has said the stimulus package will be worth tens of trillions of yen and extend support to businesses reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

    Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said in an interview that the government aims to have a supplementary budget passed by the Diet by the end of the year to finance the stimulus measures. He did not specify the size of the planned budget for the current fiscal year ending March 2022.

    Kishida, who took office Monday, will deliver a policy speech in parliament on Friday.

    He is expected to say that he will seek a "new capitalism" that focuses on economic growth and the redistribution of wealth. He is also likely to talk about building a society that can coexist with the coronavirus.

    Kishida has already pledged to boost middle-class incomes in a course correction from "Abenomics" pursued by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and carried on by his successor Yoshihide Suga. The policy was credited with helping lift corporate earnings and stock prices but panned for doing little to spark wage growth.

    But he has so far failed to elaborate on how he will bring about such changes and what kind of economic package he seeks. Kishida only said Monday he will create a new convention for achieving his vision of a new capitalism.

    The LDP is also expected to release its election campaign platform, including the new capitalism, early next week.

    In Shizuoka Prefecture, it is a three-way race between Yohei Wakabayashi, 49, a former Gotemba mayor backed by the LDP-led ruling coalition, Shinnosuke Yamazaki, 40, supported by the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, and Chika Suzuki, 50, with the backing of the Japanese Communist Party.

    The election in Yamaguchi is a contest between Tsuneo Kitamura, a 66-year-old former trade ministry official backed by the ruling coalition, Kiyo Kawai, 61, of the JCP, and Hezumaryu, 30, a YouTuber backed by a minor opposition party.

    The by-elections were called after the LDP's Shigeki Iwai left his House of Councillors seat and ran unsuccessfully in the Shizuoka gubernatorial race in June, while Yoshimasa Hayashi, an LDP lawmaker from Yamaguchi, vacated his upper house seat to run in the upcoming House of Representatives election.

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