TOKYO -- Next month's lower house election will be a referendum on Shinzo Abe's grand policy experiment as the prime minister seeks voter support to continue Abenomics and bring about an economic revival.
"This election is for the people to decide whether to press ahead with Abenomics or to abandon it," Abe told a news conference after dissolving the lower house for a snap election Friday.
Listing the successes of Abenomics, the prime minister said his economic initiatives have "created more than 1 million jobs" and that "the yen's excessive strength has been corrected." Abe added that the rise in prices caused by the currency's weakening "will be dealt with using necessary economic measures."
Touching on the widening disparity between urban and rural areas, an issue the opposition parties have cited as an example of policy failure, he said, "Abenomics will be complete only after struggling regional economies start to enjoy the benefits of economic recovery. This is the only way."
Abe reiterated that the consumption tax hike initially scheduled for October 2015 has been postponed to April 2017. "This won't be pushed back again after another economic assessment like this time," he promised.
"Some say that this isn't an election issue because the opposition parties all agree [the tax hike should be postponed], but I don't think that's the case," Abe said. "They haven't come out and said when the tax should be increased."
Abe noted that because of the postponement, plans to strengthen social security programs will have to be reviewed. But an initiative to address the shortage of child care facilities will be introduced next April as planned, he added.
Meanwhile, opposition parties tried to cast doubt on the policies of Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party.
"Is Abenomics really going to lead to sustained and stable economic growth?" asked Banri Kaieda, head of the Democratic Party of Japan, while speaking to reporters.
"The watering down of the growth strategy is the biggest reason that the economy has slowed," argued Kenji Eda, co-leader of the Japan Innovation Party.
The Party for Future Generations has called on the government to change course from the current excessive reliance on monetary policy.
Campaigning for the lower house election will kick off Dec. 2, with voting taking place Dec. 14. The number of the seats in the chamber has been reduced by five to 475 as part of an electoral reform to address voting disparities. Some 1,000 candidates were planning to run as of Friday evening, according to Nikkei estimates.