Japan Opposition Democrats to Aim Economy Counter-Punch at Abe

Japan’s largest opposition party will fight Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the economy in next month’s election, challenging him on turf he claims as his own.

“We want to land a counter-punch just where he probably feels confident: the economy,” said Yukio Edano, secretary-general of the Democratic Party of Japan, which lost power to Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party in December 2012. “Share prices are rising, but for many Japanese people, life is becoming harder.”

Abe dissolved parliament today for a Dec. 14 election, placing his “Abenomics” policies at the heart of the contest after postponing a sales-tax increase he said the economy wasn’t strong enough to bear. The Democrats will seek to cut the two-thirds majority of Abe’s ruling coalition in the lower house.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo today, Edano criticized Abe for his attacks on the DPJ’s economic record, pointing out that the nation grew more quickly under his party.

The economy grew 5.2 percent in real terms over a period that roughly correlates with the DPJ’s spell in power from September 2009 through December 2012. While it expanded 2.5 percent in 2013 under Abe, a sales-tax increase in April triggered a recession.

Abe’s policies have pushed the yen near a seven-year low, boosted corporate earnings and triggered a 67 percent gain in the benchmark Topix stock index. At the same time, real wages have fallen for 15 straight months as inflation begins to grip in the world’s third-largest economy.

Edano called for a return to his party’s policies of supporting household finances, increasing the size of the middle class and boosting domestic demand. His party has said the sales-tax delay is necessary, with Edano saying the economic outlook was uncertain.

“Mr Abe himself may be confident, but it’s hard to say that next year and the year after will bring economic growth like last year,” Edano said.

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