Abe vows economic recovery as parties pitch before Sun. election

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged Friday to keep Japan's economic recovery on track while opposition parties struggled to erode public support for his administration as they made their final pitches before Sunday's upper house election.

"I will ensure stable economic growth," Abe said in a stump speech in Mie Prefecture, touting his "Abenomics" policies under which the government is aiming to replace nearly two decades of deflation with mild inflation.

Voters will give their judgment on Abe's seven-month rule in the upcoming House of Councillors election, the first national election since his Liberal Democratic Party returned to power in December's House of Representatives election.

The ruling camp is aiming to wrest control of the upper chamber, which it lost in 2007 during Abe's previous stint as prime minister, and put an end to the divided Diet.

The outcome of the election will become clear by early Monday.

A total of 433 individuals have filed for candidacy with 121 seats at stake. Half of the chamber's 242 seats come up for election every three years.

Of the 121 seats up for grabs, 73 will be filled by the winners from 47 prefectural electoral districts and the remaining 48 by those chosen under the nationwide party-list proportional representation system.

A poll by Kyodo News showed this week that the LDP-led ruling coalition is set to obtain a comfortable majority in the upper house, securing at least 129 seats including the 59 it already holds that will not be contested Sunday.

Such an outcome would allow the ruling camp of the LDP and the New Komeito party to take control of all standing committees as well as the upper chamber, facilitating the passage of bills as the ruling bloc already holds an overwhelming majority in the more powerful lower house.

Opposition parties are finding it tough to erode the Abe administration's relatively high public support.

Banri Kaieda, head of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, said Friday that keeping the LDP in power would threaten the nation's welfare system.

"Our pension system that should reassure you when you get old is endangered" by the less reform-minded LDP, Kaieda said in a campaign speech in Hyogo Prefecture.

Some opposition parties have said Abe's economic strategy lacks thorough deregulatory reforms in areas such as agriculture and health care.

During official campaigning that began July 4, parties also focused on whether to restart idled nuclear power plants, the planned sales tax hikes starting next April, and Abe's decision to join talks on the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.