Campaigning for snap poll begins in Japan

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Tokyo, Oct 10 (IANS) Campaigning for Japan’s snap elections slated for October 22 officially started on Tuesday as new political parties entered the fray.

Around 1,100 candidates will vie for 475 seats in the country’s lower house, which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved late last month alleging the need for a new mandate to tackle North Korea and continue with his economic policies, reports Efe news.

In these elections, Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has been in power for the last five years with a vast majority, will face a reorganised opposition, which includes the Party of Hope led by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.

Koike’s party, which polls have put in second place in the upcoming elections behind the LDP, comprises a large part of the defunct Democratic Party — dissolved last year — which had been the main opposition party.

Most observers believe Abe’s decision to hold elections more than a year before the end of the current legislature seeks to take advantage of a moment of weakness in the opposition and give it as little time as possible to organise an alternative government.

Abe also kicked off his campaign in Fukushima, some 235 kms north of Toky.

Speaking by a rice field to some 200 enthusiastic supporters, Abe sampled local foods including rice and Fukushima-grown apples.

The latest polls by the local Yomiuri daily have tipped the LDP as the favourite and shown that 32 per cent of the voters plan to vote for the party, which will help it retain its majority despite losing seats.

Abe has said that if the LDP and its ally, the Buddhist New Komeito party, fail to secure the simple majority of 233 seats, then he would step down from his post.

Some 13 per cent of voters support the Party of Hope and the party is aiming to become the second largest political force after Koike decided not to lead the list of candidates and remain Governor.

Last week, Koike presented her party’s economic programme as an alternative to Abe’s economic policies known as Abenomics.

Koike’s plan, dubbed Yurinomics, includes measures such as freezing the sales tax hike planned for 2019 and taxing corporate cash reserves to resolve the problem of Japan’s high debt.

–IANS

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