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Party leaders stump across Japan on 1st Sunday of election campaign.

TOKYO, June 27 Kyodo

Party leaders campaigned across the nation Sunday, reiterating their views on major issues such as pensions and Japanese troops' participation in the multinational force in Iraq, seeking support in the upcoming House of Councillors election.

On the first Sunday since official campaigning for the July 11 upper house election began on Thursday, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made a stop in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, and explained the Self-Defense Forces will continue humanitarian and reconstruction assistance as part of the multinational force.

Koizumi, who heads the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said, ''The Democratic Party of Japan says, 'It is irresponsible for Koizumi to say he won't raise the consumption tax' but we need to carry out thorough reforms before raising it.''

Koizumi has said the government will not raise the consumption tax from the current 5 percent during his tenure as LDP president, which lasts through September 2006, while the main opposition DPJ has called for a hike in consumption tax to support the ailing social welfare system.

In Tokyo, DPJ President Katsuya Okada said the pension reform laws which the ruling coalition pushed through the Diet in early June will ''not bring about a stable system,'' adding that raising the consumption tax will allow for a system in which everyone will be able to receive a fixed minimum amount of pension.

Okada criticized Koizumi for deciding to have the SDF take part in the soon-to-be-formed U.N.-mandated multinational force without any debate in the Diet, having indicated his intention to do so in the United States and then formalizing the decision with Cabinet approval.

''Can we allow this kind of practice?'' Okada asked in a speech in front of JR Ueno Station.

Takenori Kanzaki, leader of the New Komeito party, the LDP's coalition partner, said in a street speech in Saitama that the pension reform laws will secure stable funding for the pension system and rapped the DPJ for frequently changing its policies.

Japanese Communist Party head Kazuo Shii, speaking in Nagoya, reiterated his call for the SDF to be withdrawn from Iraq and said the current national pension system is hollowing out as benefits are decreasing and there are many people who do not register for the scheme.

In Hiroshima, western Japan, Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima emphasized the need to keep the war-renouncing Constitution intact, saying any changes would create the possibility that Japan will be involved in war.
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Date:Jun 28, 2004
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