Japan election campaign kicks off

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