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Japan's first lady jokes about PM's econ expertise
TOKYO (Reuters) - First lady Nobuko Kan may have been engaging in a traditional Japanese put-down of her nearest and dearest, but she touched a sore spot when she said what many are thinking -- her husband is no economic expert.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has made fixing Japan's tattered finances a top priority since taking office last month, but his hint at a possible sales tax rise eroded support ahead of an election on Sunday, in which voters may deliver his party a stinging rebuuke.
"When he was national strategy minister, I thought he was the perfect person for the job," 64-year-old Nobuko Kan told some 100 voters who gathered this week in a town hall in Kan's western Tokyo constituency.
"But then he became finance minister in January. I shouldn't probably say this, but I wondered if he could understand economics as he was not so good at macroeconomic policy.
"Now he's become prime minister, and people congratulate us so I should feel happy. But I feel like I should get condolences or words of comfort for a tough road," she added jokingly.
Critics say Kan, a 63-year-old former grassroots activist, has failed to clarify his fiscal reform plans or persuade voters his economic prescriptions will end decades of stagnation.
Nobuko, also a cousin of her husband, said the couple have been talking on the phone every night as they travel separately around the country to help candidates on the campaign trail.
Just this week, the mother of two noted, the premier -- once known as a fiery debater -- consulted her about changing tactics after he was criticised for talking to opposition leaders in a TV debate as if he were still in opposition himself.
"I told him that was a good idea (to explain his stance more clearly) and that since he is now in power he has to take criticism on board when he's attacked," she said.
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