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Campaigning began Wednesday for an Upper House election that — despite the minimal threat posed by the opposition — could yet come to define the tenure of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Still only nine months into the job, a strong showing in the July 10 ballot would allow the prime minister to put his own stamp on both the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the political direction of the country.

Kishida referred to issues such as declining birthrates, depopulation in rural areas and an aging society during his opening campaign speech Wednesday morning in the city of Fukushima — an area in the country’s northeast still scarred by the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear disaster of 2011.

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