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Prime Minister Taro Aso and Democratic Party of Japan leader Yukio Hatoyama held their first election debate Wednesday. Mr. Aso strove to paint the DPJ as a party with no governing ability, and tried to sell his Liberal Democratic Party as the “responsible” one that implements policy based on a solid financial foundation, including an eventual hike in the consumption tax rate. Mr. Hatoyama criticized the ruling coalition of the LDP and Komeito for letting bureaucrats take the initiative in developing policy and turning Japan into a nation bound firmly by bureaucrats’ vested interests. He noted that many people want a change of government.

Mr. Aso tenaciously attacked the DPJ for its security policy, saying that Japan’s security cannot be left to a party that lacks a coherent security policy, a charge that Mr. Hatoyama failed to effectively parry. As for the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Indian Ocean fueling mission, which the DPJ opposed, Mr. Hatoyama said that if the DPJ takes power it will handle the matter realistically as demanded by consistency in diplomacy.

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