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Noda, Abe plan to hold one-on-one debate

Kyodo

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Liberal Democratic Party chief Shinzo Abe intend to hold a public face-to-face debate on an Internet program Thursday to clarify their policy differences before the general election, sources in the two parties said Saturday.

Noda indicated his willingness to hold such a debate earlier in the day, and his ruling Democratic Party of Japan had been planning to approach the LDP over the proposal Monday, the sources said.

On Saturday evening, however, Abe informed reporters that he is prepared to hold a one-on-one debate with Noda on an online program Thursday. The Lower House poll will take place Dec. 16.

“If the debate were to be held on a television show, the broadcaster would have to treat all parties contesting the election equally and include all of their leaders,” an LDP executive said. “But since Internet programs are not as strict as TV shows, Noda and Abe will probably be able to realize a debate between just the two of them.”

Meanwhile, Acting DPJ Secretary General Jun Azumi told reporters in Fukuoka on Saturday that a series of debates should be organized, as is standard practice in U.S. presidential election campaigns.

During a visit to the Tokyo suburb of Tama the same day, Noda said the upcoming vote “will be an election to choose a prime minister,” in his first stump speech since dissolving the Lower House on Nov. 16.

“It’s significant for the heads of the ruling and main opposition parties to hold a debate to show the public their differences over issues such as the economy and social security,” Noda, also president of the DPJ, stated.

Noda also ratcheted up his criticism of the LDP’s economic and monetary policies.

“(The LDP) is trying to go back to pork-barrel spending through public projects,” he said in a separate speech in Kunitachi, western Tokyo, referring to the LDP’s campaign pledge to boost infrastructure spending and implement antidisaster measures nationwide to develop local economies and create jobs.

The prime minister then trained his sights on the monetary policy that Abe has strongly advocated, describing it as “absurd.”

“(Abe) is saying (that if the LDP regains power), his government would issue a raft of construction bonds and force the Bank of Japan to purchase them” to support spending, Noda said. “Such an absurd monetary policy would not be recognized by other members of international society.”