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Opposition parties have complained about heavy media coverage of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in the lead-up to its Sept. 29 leadership election, ahead of a general election also set to be held this fall.

The parties are asking for political neutrality in news reporting ahead of this autumn’s election for the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet.

Behind their complaints are also worries that public attention has shifted away from Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s widely criticized response to the COVID-19 crisis, since he suddenly announced his intention to step down without seeking re-election as LDP president.

“Now, they’re doing the (LDP) presidential election in which only a million people can vote,” Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Edano said in a stump speech in the city of Abiko, in Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo.

“The real battle is the Lower House election, with 100 million voters. We present to you a clear alternative,” he added.

During the three-day weekend from Saturday, Edano visited Chiba and Niigata prefectures for street speeches, and talked with rice farmers.

The opposition had been stepping up its attacks on Suga over his handling of the virus to gain momentum ahead of the Lower House poll. But Suga’s abrupt announcement “has changed the situation,” a young opposition party member said.

Television news and information programs are reporting too intensely about the LDP, CDP Diet affairs head Jun Azumi told reporters Wednesday. Azumi said he will consider reporting the issue to the Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization.

A Japanese Communist Party executive complained that one program reported about opposition parties only for a few minutes while the rest of the program was dedicated almost entirely to the LDP race.

Meanwhile, a Democratic Party for the People member warned against excessive criticism, saying, “It’s not good to say something that puts pressure on news organizations.”

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