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2017 Lower House Election / Official campaigning kicks off / Public to evaluate Abe’s half decade in power

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Political party leaders seek support Tuesday from audiences on streets across the country after official campaigns for the House of Representatives election kicked off. Clockwise from top left: Kibo no To leader Yuriko Koike, Liberal Democratic Party President Shinzo Abe, Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi, Japanese Communist Party Chairman Kazuo Shii, Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano and Nippon Ishin no Kai leader Ichiro Matsui.

The Yomiuri ShimbunOfficial campaigning for the 48th general election of the House of Representatives kicked off on Tuesday, with the biggest issue being how to evaluate Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s nearly five-year administration.

Three major forces — the ruling bloc of the Liberal Democratic Party led by Abe as party president and its partner Komeito; Kibo no To (Party of Hope) and Nippon Ishin no Kai; the Japanese Communist Party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Social Democratic Party — are vying for seats in the 12-day campaign period for the Oct. 22 election.

In the election, a total of 465 seats — 289 in single-seat constituencies and 176 in proportional representation blocs — are up for grabs, down 10 seats from the previous lower house election in 2014. A majority in the lower house is 233.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

A total of 1,180 candidates registered to run in the race. In the previous election, 1,191 candidates registered.

The leaders of each party made their first speeches, including stump speeches, on Tuesday morning.

In a pastoral suburb of Fukushima, Abe strongly called for strengthening pressure on North Korea, which is continuing provocations with its nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches. “We must coordinate with the international community to counter the North Korean threat,” the prime minister said.

Abe also vowed to proceed with such policies as making preschool education free of charge by changing the allocation of the increased revenue accrued from a consumption tax rate hike to 10 percent planned in October 2019. “The consumption tax will be used to support the child-rearing generation,” he said.

During her stump speech near the west exit of JR Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo’s Toshima Ward, Kibo leader Yuriko Koike stressed her party’s plan to postpone the tax hike and to compensate for the decrease in revenue by drastically reviewing expenditures.

Koike said: “The wave of super-aging society is right in front of us. That’s why we need to change the system. It won’t be enough just to raise the consumption tax rate to 10 percent and change the allocation [of the tax]. We will begin with postponing the tax hike,” the Tokyo governor said.

She also clearly expressed her stance of confronting Abe, saying, “Let us end the Abe-dominant politics.”

Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi was outside JR Iwamizawa Station in Iwamizawa, Hokkaido, where he emphasized the plan to change the use of the revenue from the consumption tax hike. Yamaguchi said: “We’ll realize a reduction in the burden of educational costs by significantly changing the use of consumption tax and promoting free-of-charge education for preschool children. We’re in support of young generations,” he said.

Meanwhile, JCP Chairman Kazuo Shii called for abolishing the existing policy framework, including the security-related legislation, in front of JR Shinjuku Station in Tokyo. Shii said: “The biggest issue in the election is whether it is OK to continue Abe’s out-of-control politics. The [government’s] power has begun to run out of control, ignoring the Constitution.”

CDPJ leader Yukio Edano made his speech outside the Sendai city government building. Edano said: “Is it democracy when a handful of people are imposing their values? Let’s transform it to politics based on the people’s grassroots voices. We want to take a first step forward to realize it.”

Ishin leader Ichiro Matsui, who is also the governor of Osaka, gave a speech in front of Nanba Station on the Nankai Electric Railway in Chuo Ward, Osaka. Matsui said: “Osaka Prefecture went into the black through reforms. Only with such resources can we provide free education from kindergarten and nursery school children to high school students. We’d like to expand this across the nation.”

After Abe announced he would dissolve the lower house on Sept. 25, the largest opposition Democratic Party broke up, and subsequently DP candidates were divided into mainly two forces — those who joined forces with Kibo and others who participated in the forming of the CDPJ.

Kibo, which aims to take power, had difficulty fielding its candidates, but in the end it registered 235 candidates — a number exceeding a lower house majority.

However, most of its candidates running only for the proportional representation system did not have their registration documents screened in advance, making it possible that the number of Kibo candidates will eventually decrease if the central election management council detects flaws in their documents.

Meanwhile, the LDP registered more than 300 candidates, greatly exceeding the number needed for a lower house majority.

In the campaign battle, focal points are economic policies, the consumption tax rate hike, energy policies including measures on nuclear power plants, constitutional revision and handling of North Korean issues. Speech

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