Normally, proposing a tax hike is considered a sure way to lose an election.

But Prime Minister Naoto Kan is saying that's what Japan needs to rein in its bulging national debt in the campaign leading up to this Sunday's Upper House election.

The poll, in which half the seats in the 242-member Upper House are up for grabs, is viewed as a referendum on the Democratic Party of Japan's 10 months in power since defeating the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The DPJ has promised to cut wasteful spending and bring greater transparency to politics.