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Voting under way in Japan election as PM Kishida seeks mandate

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Voting got under way Sunday in Japan’s general election as new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida seeks a public mandate for his COVID-19, economic and security policies while capitalising on his experience as foreign minister and policy chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

People listen to a politician making a stump speech in Tokyo’s Shinjuku area on October 30, 2021, a day before a general election.  --Photo Kyodo

The LDP and its junior coalition partner Komeito aim to retain their majority in the House of Representatives, the powerful lower chamber of parliament.
The outcome of the first general election in four years hinges on dozens of battleground constituencies, where ruling coalition candidates were neck-and-neck with those of opposition parties that have united in a bid to take the reins of government.
Facing his first major test since taking office on October 4, Kishida has promised to spur growth in the world’s third-largest economy while redistributing the spoils to the middle class under his vision of “new capitalism.”
The government will secure more hospital beds to treat COVID-19 patients in preparation for a possible sixth wave of infections and will draw up a stimulus package within the year to help people and businesses hit hard by the pandemic, he has said.
In addition to deciding whether Kishida gets his mandate, the election is also seen as a referendum on nearly nine years of LDP-led government under Kishida’s predecessors, Shinzo Abe and Yoshihide Suga.
The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties argue the government has botched its COVID-19 response and that the Abenomics policy mix has only served to widen income disparity by boosting corporate earnings and share prices while failing to achieve higher wages.
Polling stations across the country close at 8 p.m., with ballots expected to be counted late into the night.
Media polls suggest the ruling coalition will retain its majority -- at least 233 seats -- in the 465-member lower house, which has special powers not given to the upper chamber, the House of Councillors, including having the final say in electing the prime minister, passing state budgets and ratifying international treaties.
But the LDP, which has governed Japan for most of the past six decades, may fall significantly short of the 276 seats it held.
Of the lower house seats, 289 will be decided in single-member districts, where candidates fight head-to-head for votes. Another 176 will be filled via proportional representation, where parties are awarded seats based on how many votes they get in 11 regional blocks.
A Kyodo News survey conducted earlier this week showed LDP candidates were in close battles with opposition rivals in around 70 single-member districts, with about 40 percent of voters still undecided.
The CDPJ, which had 110 seats before Kishida dissolved the lower chamber on Oct. 14, has challenged the ruling coalition by allying with other opposition parties, including the Japanese Communist Party, to get behind the same candidates in competitive constituencies.

(Latest Update November 1, 2021)

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