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Japan PM kicks off campaign season

world Updated: Jun 24, 2010 15:40 IST

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan, three weeks after taking office, on Thursday kicked off a campaign for upper house polls next month in which he will seek a clear mandate for his leadership.

The centre-left premier, addressing voters in shirtsleeves in the western city of Osaka, promised both fiscal austerity to clean up Japan's battered public finances and better social welfare measures to ease the pain.

Outlining his vision, he promised jobs for "regular people such as salaried workers" as well as higher tax on the rich, pointing at the recently-revealed 9.8 million dollar annual salary of Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.

"Please give us power, everyone -- the power that enables us to implement what we have pledged to do!" he yelled as a hundreds of voters gathered in a busy commercial district of the city ahead of the July 11 election.

Kan blamed former conservative premier Junichiro Koizumi for a pro-market governing style that he said worsened income disparities and people's misery.

"Japan today is suffering from a sense of stagnation. The number of annual suicides has surpassed 30,000 and a slew of heart-wrenching crimes have been reported. In the background lies the isolation of individual people," he said.

Kan, 63, took over early this month from Yukio Hatoyama, who resigned less than nine months after their Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) ousted the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in a landslide lower house election.

The new premier, who started his political life as a left-wing activist and most recently served as finance minister, is hoping to win a firm grip on the upper house of parliament, where half of the 242 seats will be up for grabs.

The DPJ, which has held the chamber with the support of smaller parties, wants to at least maintain the status quo or win an outright majority to make it easier to pass legislation through the bicameral Diet legislature.

Kan was later Thursday due to fly to Canada to make his international debut at the G8 and G20 summits and meet other world leaders including US President Barack Obama, China's Hu Jintao and Russia's Dmitry Medvedev.

Japan's conservative opposition, launching their own campaign Thursday, vowed to stop what it has labelled the DPJ's wasteful governing style.

"Our mission is to halt the DPJ's government, which spends money in a wasteful manner, and to save the next generation" from having to deal with a bankrupt Japan, said LDP leader Sadakazu Tanigaki.

"This is an election about whether you voters give us back your trust," he told supporters in Kofu in central Japan.

A total of 438 candidates are running for the 121 seats up for grabs in the 242-member upper house, the Diet's less powerful chamber of review.