It looks like the Liberal Democratic Party has cuter ideas than “Abenomics” to enthrall the public ahead of the Upper House election this summer.

Illustrated characters resembling Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba have recently been selected to promote the resurgent LDP and its conservative causes with a requisite dash of cute.

The illustrations were drawn by Reika Takahashi, 47, a Hokkaido painter whose works were chosen from more than 400 other submissions made to the LDP last year.

The characters, with twinkling eyes and pink cheeks, were unveiled Sunday at a ceremony in Tokyo to recognize Takahashi and other applicants.

“The point was to make characters people can feel close to,” Yoshiaki Ishige of the LDP’s publicity staff told The Japan Times.

The charm offensive is trying to build on the popularity of mascots dubbed “yuru-kyara,” meaning “loose characters.” An example is Kumamoto Prefecture’s official Kumamon character.

Ishige said the LDP wanted to “make Prime Minister Abe and Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba cute like those mascots.”

At Sunday’s ceremony, Abe praised the illustrations, saying they were “cutely done.”

The LDP launched the character contest in November by asking the public to draw likenesses of Abe and Ishiba to serve as mascots to boost its popularity ahead of the Lower House race.

But the poll was held in December, too soon for the mascots to have the desired effect, and the LDP now wants to use them to maintain its high approval ratings as it again approaches election day, Ishige said.

At the LDP’s annual party convention in Tokyo Sunday, plastic file folders and bags bearing the illustrations were distributed. Ishige said the party plans to start marketing the two products on the LDP’s websites and at party headquarters in Chiyoda Ward.

This isn’t the LDP’s first bid to cash in on the nation’s penchant for mascots. The same thing was tried when Junichiro Koizumi was prime minister, resulting in goods with the Shishiro lion character, depicting the shaggy Koizumi in a lion costume.

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