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Abe to dissolve lower house without policy speech on Sept. 28

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will dissolve the House of
Representatives for an election at the outset of an extraordinary
Diet session to be convened on Sept. 28 without delivering a policy
speech, ruling party sources said Thursday.

The plan to skip the speech and Diet deliberations on it
triggered opposition party protests, with Seiji Maehara, leader of
the Democratic Party, saying it was an "act that ridicules the
highest organ of state power."

With the main opposition party scrambling to develop its
campaign pledges ahead of what would be the first general election in
nearly three years, Maehara told reporters that the party will put
emphasis on "redistribution of wealth" rather than economic growth.

Such a platform would contrast with Abe's Liberal Democratic
Party, which is expected to vow to improve Japan's economy under the
premier's "Abenomics" policy mix.

Official campaigning is likely to commence on Oct. 10 for a
general election on Oct. 22, according to government sources.

Representing four opposition parties, Democratic Party Secretary
General Atsushi Oshima lodged a protest with his LDP counterpart
Toshihiro Nikai over the plan to dissolve the chamber without Abe's
policy speech. Abe doubles as LDP president.

On Wednesday, the Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party
and two other smaller opposition parties agreed to demand Diet
deliberations, arguing Abe is trying to avoid being grilled in
parliament on cronyism allegations against him linked to school
building projects.

Following the agreement, Oshima told Nikai on Thursday that Abe
should deliver the speech, lawmakers should be allowed to ask
questions afterward and a Budget Committee session should be held.

LDP Diet affairs chief Hiroshi Moriyama, who attended the
meeting between Oshima and Nikai, told reporters that "dissolution
(of the lower house) should take precedence even though it is
normally a matter of course to hold deliberations once the
extraordinary Diet session starts."

After discussing the Democratic Party's campaign platform with
other party officials, Maehara told a press conference that
"redistribution to generations of people in the workforce is
extremely thin in Japan, resulting in poverty among the youth."

Maehara criticized the LDP's planned election pledge to divert
part of the revenue from a 2-percentage-point consumption tax hike in
2019 to child-rearing support as an attempt to make it a non-issue
during the election, as Maehara himself had floated a similar idea
during his party's leadership contest earlier this month.

In reviewing how to allocate the revenue from the tax rate
increase, Abe is planning to propose additional spending of more than
1 trillion yen ($8.89 billion) on child-rearing assistance, including
education, sources close to the matter said.

The prime minister will likely unveil the proposal next Monday
-- when he is expected to announce his intention to dissolve the
lower house -- while touching on a plan to postpone Japan's stated
goal of achieving a primary balance surplus in fiscal 2020, according
to the sources. (Sept. 21)