Once again, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he is seeking a public vote of confidence in his trademark economic policies. The opposition camp charges that the state of Japan's economy illustrates the failure of Abenomics. Abe claims otherwise — though he admits that his economic policies are still halfway to achieving his administration's pledge to pull Japan out of deflation — and dares the opposition to come up with an alternative instead of just criticizing him.

Just as he did when he held a snap election for the Lower House in December 2014, Abe postponed the planned hike in the consumption tax to 10 percent — this time by 30 months — ahead of the July 10 Upper House race, for which the official 18-day campaign kicked off Wednesday. He claims Abenomics is making steady progress and producing results, citing increased tax revenue and the tightest labor demand in nearly a quarter century, but says he's delaying the tax hike to prevent the global economic slowdown from derailing his bid to bust deflation in Japan. The opposition charges that Abe having to postpone the tax hike for the second time — a decision predictably popular among voters — is proof that his economic policies aren't working.

Abe's Liberal Democratic Party-Komeito ruling alliance has won landslide victories in all nationwide elections since the coalition returned to power in 2012. His administration remains relatively popular in its fourth year, and the public's support has often been attributed to the upward trend of the economy. But as half of the 242 Upper House seats come up for grabs in the triennial election, Japan's economic growth remains fragile and uneven, and popular skepticism of the benefits of Abenomics seems as strong as ever.