2 December, 2014: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took his economic message to Japanâ€™s regions today, starting his campaign for re-election with the country in recession.
For the next 12 days, the streets will reverberate with the sound of political slogans blaring from vans filled with white-gloved campaign workers smiling and waving at passers-by. Candidates will brave winter weather on the stump outside rail stations to deliver their appeals — invariably on the economy.
Just as Abe tries to convince the public to stick with him with Japan in recession and wage growth lagging inflation, Moodyâ€™s Investors Service yesterday cut the countryâ€™s credit rating over concern about the worldâ€™s biggest debt burden. Even so, a fragmented opposition means Abeâ€™s coalition will probably keep its majority in the 475-member lower house. The main unknown is how many seats heâ€™ll retain in the Dec. 14 poll.
â€œAt this point voters are probably feeling a mixture of lingering expectations for the economy and a lack of other options,â€ said Katsuhiko Nakamura, executive director of Asian Forum Japan. â€œItâ€™s a question of whether the ruling parties can maintain expectations that the middle class will benefitâ€ from their continued management of the economy.
Two years after Abeâ€™s Liberal Democratic Party and coalition partner Komeito defeated the then-ruling Democratic Party of Japan in a landslide, opinion polls show Abe has retained relatively strong support, while backing for the opposition is split among six smaller parties.
The LDP will be the choice of 28 percent of voters, compared with 10.3 percent for the DPJ, according to a Kyodo News poll published Nov. 29. The LDP won 27.6 percent of the party vote in 2012, enough for the LDP and Komeito to gain control of two-thirds of the seats in the lower house