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Japan election campaign kicks off

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 - 12:06

Tokyo: Japan`s election campaign kicked off
Tuesday, less than two weeks before polls in which the
centre-left opposition party is widely tipped to take power
for the first time.

The Conservative government of embattled Prime Minister
Taro Aso has lagged in opinion surveys for months, although it
was helped by data this week that showed Japan has emerged
from its deepest post-war recession.

Aso and his rival, opposition leader Yukio Hatoyama, have
been in election mode since the premier dissolved parliament
in July, but Tuesday marked the official start of campaigning
for the August 30 lower house vote.

Aso, campaigning in shirt sleeves on a hot summer`s day
in Tokyo, trumpeted his party`s economic stimulus measures a
day after new data showed Asia`s biggest economy returned to
growth in the April-June quarter.

"Our economic measures are kicking in for sure," Aso told
the crowd.

The premier stressed that the recovery was still only
"half-way" through and pledged to pay greater attention to
closing a growing wealth gap, promising that "we are now
taking these issues seriously."

Hatoyama, on the stumps in the western city of Osaka, all
but declared victory as he outlined his vision of a society
with a stronger social welfare net and reforms to rein in the
powerful state bureaucracy.

Bureau Report

First Published: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 - 12:06
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