Abe says victory in Tokyo metropolitan assembly poll is a must

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday described the upcoming Tokyo metropolitan assembly election, widely seen as a prelude to the House of Councillors election in July, as a battle to be won "at any cost" by his Liberal Democratic Party.

"We must win the assembly election in Tokyo at any cost to speed up reform, and our economic growth" through the July polls, Abe, who heads the LDP, said in a stump speech in Tokyo for a candidate running on the party's ticket.

Fresh from his trip to Europe where he attended the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland, and visited Ireland for the first time as Japanese prime minister, Abe said he won support for his set of economic policies dubbed "Abenomics" from the G-8 and expectations are high for Japan.

"It's been quite a long time since Japan was at the center of attention in the international community," Abe said of the G-8 meeting, where he got "assurances" that Japan's economic and monetary policies are on the right track.

"Let's meet the expectations the world has of us," the prime minister added.

The speech came a month before the upper house election, scheduled for July 21, and was timed with the LDP's announcement of its election platform that sets the goal of achieving average real economic growth of 2 percent over the next decade.

The LDP is aiming to win a majority of the 127 seats in the Tokyo metropolitan assembly in the election on Sunday, injecting momentum into its campaign for the upper house election where his handling of the government will be tested.

Memories are still fresh in the LDP of its devastating defeat in the last assembly election in 2009 that was a precursor of the Democratic Party of Japan's rise to power at the national level.

Apart from Abenomics, the focus is on how the Japan Restoration Party will fare, now that its co-leader Toru Hashimoto has indicated he may step down depending on the outcome.

The party, also headed by former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, has been trying to avoid a public backlash in the election after a series of controversial remarks by Hashimoto related to Japan's wartime military brothels.