Aso, Hatoyama reach out to voters

TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. (Kyodo) Prime Minister Taro Aso visited business groups Thursday to seek their support for the Aug. 30 general election, while his rival, Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Hatoyama, called on the public to back the DPJ’s bid to unseat the ruling bloc led by Aso’s Liberal Democratic Party.

“I want you to become the heroes to create history and your courage will create a new Japan,” Hatoyama said in front of Tokorozawa Station in Saitama Prefecture, the first leg of his stumping tour for the day.

“When I go out to deliver a speech, lots of people come and hold my hands, saying ‘Please realize the change of power.’ They are really in earnest,” Hatoyama said.

Hatoyama himself was recently hit by a money scandal when a number of incorrect entries were found in his annual political funds reports. But pressing on despite the setback, he has spoken in Kagawa, Tokushima, Okinawa and Kanagawa prefectures, and will return to Saitama and visit Osaka later this week.

In contrast, Aso, the LDP president, has yet to set a schedule for his own stump speeches. Media have reported that many LDP candidates are reluctant to invite him to their constituencies, given critically low support rates for his Cabinet in recent polls.

Aso instead has visited since Wednesday several business organizations, the LDP’s biggest support base.

“I believe it is extremely important to explain what we have achieved over the past 10 months to various groups,” Aso said Wednesday evening.

One source close to the prime minister said, “We have received requests for campaign speeches from about 50 groups, including (LDP) prefectural chapters as well as individuals.”

But the source declined comment on exactly when Aso would start pressing the flesh.

One LDP executive joked: “Aso should go to the constituencies of the anti-Aso candidates (within the LDP) so that they will receive fewer votes and lose the election.”

Although campaigning for the poll doesn’t officially kick off until Aug. 18, candidates are holding little back.