Photo/IllutrationFormer Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, left, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands in a joint news conference in Tokyo on Sept. 10 for the LDP presidential election. (Shiro Nishihata)

Hitting the campaign trail in the LDP presidential election, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for promoting discussions on constitutional revisions while former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba emphasized placing importance on local revitalization.

The two candidates vying for their party leadership stated their positions in campaign speeches and a joint news conference in Tokyo on Sept. 10.

The campaign speech meeting and news conference were initially scheduled to be held Sept. 7, but were postponed after a powerful earthquake struck Hokkaido early on Sept. 6.

In his speech, Abe, 63, who is seeking a third three-year term, said, “This LDP presidential election is the last for me.”

He emphasized the achievements of his administration, which has been in power for five years and eight months, by showing improvements in the economic growth rate and the ratio of job offers to job seekers.

Abe also referred to diplomatic issues, including Japan-U.S. relations and Japan-Russia relations.

“I will complete Japan’s postwar diplomacy. I will establish the foundation for peace and prosperity of a new era with Japan’s leadership,” he said.

As for Japan-North Korea relations, Abe said, “I’m determined to solve the abduction issues by meeting (North Korean) leader Kim Jong Un.”

As for when the LDP’s constitutional revision plan will be submitted to the Diet, Abe said in the news conference, “I want the LDP to promote discussions so that the plan will be submitted to an extraordinary Diet session to be held this autumn.”

However, he added, “As the LDP president, I must show a certain target. But this is not an instruction the party has to achieve by all means. I also want the party to discuss about whether it can achieve the target.”

Asked about the public’s criticism against the Abe administration concerning scandals involving school operators Moritomo Gakuen and Kake Educational Institution, Abe replied, “While accepting criticism seriously, I want to run my administration humbly and politely.”

Meanwhile, Ishiba, 61, a former LDP secretary-general, emphasized the necessity of local revitalization in his speech.

“The core of revival of the Japanese economy is local revitalization. What we have to increase is the incomes of each person of the public. About 80 percent of Japan’s employment and 70 percent of Japan’s economy are supported by local economies,” he said.

In making the remark, Ishiba was apparently mindful of the criticism that benefits from Abe’s economic policies, called Abenomics, have yet to spread to rural areas.

Ishiba also called for establishment of a comprehensive council on social security, including medical services, nursing care and child-rearing.

“I will disclose all the data that is uncomfortable to the government. I will make all the meetings open to the public,” he said.

As for revisions to the Constitution, Ishiba repeated his long-held idea of deleting Paragraph 2 of Article 9, which states that Japan will never maintain land, sea and air forces.

Ishiba put priorities on constitutional revisions to abolish some Upper House constituencies, each of which consists of two prefectures, and stipulate an article to deal with emergency situations.

As for the Moritomo and Kake scandals, Ishiba said in the news conference, “Unless we recover the people’s trust, they will not support the drastic reforms of the government.”

He also said, “We have to pay respect to eligible voters by holding speeches on streets and discussion meetings.”

The election, for a three-year term, will be held Sept. 20. It is being contested for 810 votes--405 from LDP Diet members, and 405 among 1.04 million party members and associates.