Final Debate Ahead of Japan's Leadership Election

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Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan's job is on the line. He's facing a challenge from powerbroker Ichiro Ozawa. Japanese media say the race is too close to call.

Vying for public support, the candidates have been campaigning across Japan ahead of a September 14th ruling party election. Kan and Ozawa faced off on Friday in a final debate in Tokyo.

Kan, who became Japan's prime minister just three months ago, is now fighting to keep his job. It comes after an election loss last month deprived the Democratic Party of Japan—or DPJ—of a majority in the upper house.

With his own job at stake, Kan emphasized that the government would take firm steps to stop the yen's rise.

[Naoto Kan, Japanese Prime Minister]: (male, Japanese)
"Currently the yen is fluctuating rapidly which could hurt the Japanese economy. As we have been saying, we will take decisive steps if the situation gets more volatile."

Ozawa quit last year as DPJ leader over a funding scandal, and stepped down as the party's number two in June.

Ozawa has blasted Kan in the previous election for floating the politically sensitive idea of a future sales tax increase. He argued that Japan should take advantage of a strong yen.

[Ichiro Ozawa, Japanese Powerbroker]: (male, Japanese)
"A strong yen could be our biggest advantage when investing in foreign resources, so the government should actively lead and support these positive investments, which might add up to 10 or 20 trillion yen in total."

The winner of the DPJ leadership election is likely to become prime minister by virtue of the party's majority in the powerful lower house. He will have to cope with a strong yen, fragile economic recovery and deep structural woes.

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