Party leaders make final pleas to voters before poll


Party leaders sought voter support nationwide on Saturday, wrapping up more than two weeks of official campaigning for the Upper House election.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who heads the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, has pushed constitutional revision as one of the main issues for Sunday’s election in which 370 candidates will vie for 124 seats.

But the reliability of the public pension system has also come under intense scrutiny after an alarming report issued by the Financial Services Agency earlier this month estimated that a retired couple would face a shortfall of ¥20 million under the system’s current parameters if they live to be 95 years old.

Social security costs are expected to keep rising as the debt-ridden government grapples with the rapid graying of the population.

“The opposition bloc is only raising concerns without presenting how they are going to secure funding” to make the pension system sustainable, Abe said in a speech in the city of Akita, where an LDP incumbent is being challenged by a candidate backed by multiple opposition parties.

“We can increase pension benefits if we can make sure the economy grows,” Abe said.

The opposition camp, meanwhile, criticized the Abe administration for refusing to even receive the report because it contradicts the government’s view that the pension system will be the basis for citizens’ post-retirement finances.

In addition to the pension issue, the ruling and opposition parties remain divided over key issues such as whether to amend the pacifist Constitution and whether to raise the consumption tax to 10 percent from 8 percent in October as planned.

While polls point to a solid win for the ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito, the opposition has been scrambling to highlight their differences on key issues during the 17-day campaign.

In hopes of transforming the anti-LDP vote into a viable counterbalance to the ruling coalition, opposition parties are joining forces by fielding unified candidates in all 32 single-seat districts across the country.

“One more step will get us closer to bringing (the focus of) politics back to our livelihoods,” Yukio Edano, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said in a speech in Tokyo.

Abe and the other party leaders were scheduled to make their final speeches later in the day, with Abe ending up in Tokyo’s Akihabara district, as was the case in recent elections.



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