Japan's six opposition parties faced off against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the eve of the start of official campaigning for the Dec. 14 polls, but Abe largely deflected attacks on his management of the economy and other policies.

Instead, the two-hour debate Monday turned into an Abe news conference, as questions among the participants and selected journalists were largely for him.

Abe dissolved the lower house Nov. 20, seeking a renewed public mandate for his economic policies, as he portrays the election as a referendum on his economic revitalization policies, known as Abenomics, and the postponement of a tax hike — from the current 8 percent to 10 percent — that had been set for next October.