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Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007
LDP conventioneers sing praise for Abe, visits to Yasukuni
By MASAMI ITO
The air was music-filled and festive Wednesday as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took the stage to kick off the Liberal Democratic Party's annual convention to finish off the banner "Utsukushii Kuni Nippon" ("Japan, a Beautiful Country").
The saying, Abe's motto since he took office in September, was then placed under the Hinomaru national flag, and the hundreds of party faithful stood to face the flag and sing the national anthem.
They then moved on to the party song "Warera" ("Us"). "One person's happiness is everyone's happiness," they sang.
Abe told the 74th LDP convention that his government built the foundation last year to create a "beautiful nation" with the passage of several bills. They include controversial revisions to the Fundamental Law of Education, requiring schools to instill a sense of patriotism in students.
The party also adopted the position that its members would continue to visit Tokyo's war-related Yasukuni Shrine, a major bone of contention with China and South Korea.
"This year, we will take a big step forward to create a beautiful nation," Abe said at the event.
Critics are predicting the LDP will have to struggle to win a majority in the House of Councilors election in July, and may even see a setback. The ruling party currently has only 111 of the 242 seats in the Upper House and controls it through its coalition with New Komeito, which has 24 seats.
LDP Secretary General Hidenao Nakagawa told the crowd the LDP must win a majority in the election.
"The Upper House election is a decisive battle in which the future of Japan and the pride of our party are at risk," Nakagawa said.
Abe wants the key campaign issue to be revising the Constitution.
"The Constitution is the framework, the shape of the nation, and based on the spirit behind the foundation of the (LDP), I would like to go after revising the Constitution," Abe said.
He said his first goal is to get a bill that outlines procedures for a national referendum -- needed to change the Constitution -- passed during the next Diet session, which convenes Jan. 25.
Nakagawa took the opportunity at the convention to take a shot at the current Democratic Party of Japan commercial.
The commercial shows DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa, steering a ship in a storm, being hurled back where he is caught and supported by DPJ Deputy President Naoto Kan and Secretary General Yukio Hatoyama. Some DPJ members criticized the commercial at the party's convention earlier this week, saying it made Ozawa appear weak and reminded viewers of his hospitalization last fall.
"We cannot entrust Japan's future to a party whose leader lets go of the steering wheel, whose sailors all run away and all that remains is the three executives," Nakagawa said. "But Japan's captain, Shinzo Abe, will never let go of the wheel, no matter how rough the waves get."