Japan votes in take a look at for brand spanking new PM Kishida, political stability By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who is also president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, raises his fist with the party’s candidates on the campaign bus on the final day of the general election campaign on October 31st

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By Irene Wang and Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese voters went to the polls on Sunday to decide whether to support Fumio Kishida’s conservative government or weaken the new prime minister and potentially bring the world’s third largest economy back into a period of political uncertainty.

The vote is a test https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/tightrope-election-may-spell-uncertain-future-japans-new-prime-minister-2021-10-28 for Kishida, the called the election shortly after he took office earlier this month and for his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which was tarnished by its perceived mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kishida has already tried to advance a policy to help poorer people https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japan-confronts-rising-inequality-after-abenomics-2021-10-12, while at the same time a big increase in military spending https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/with-an-eye-china-japans-ruling-party-makes-unprecedented-defence-spending-2021-10-13 harder Line to China https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/japans-okinawa-ruling-partys-tough-china-stance-helps-win-young-voters-2021-10-29.

Since its lackluster image cannot inspire voters, polls show that for the first time since 2009 the LDP is on the verge of losing its sole majority in the lower house of parliament, although its coalition with junior partner Komeito is expected to retain control.

Japan’s vaccination campaign initially lagged behind other advanced nations. More than 70% of the population are now fully vaccinated and infections have fallen sharply, but some voters remain suspicious.

“It’s hard to say that the pandemic is completely wiped out and society is stable, so we shouldn’t have big changes in coronavirus policy,” said Naoki Okura, a doctor, after the Tokyo vote.

“Instead of asking for a change of government, I think we should be asking for continuity.”

HARD COMPETITIONS, SWING DOOR?

Some key LDP lawmakers are also facing particularly tough competition, including Akira Amari, the party’s general secretary.

“Government Door Prime Ministers are a weakness many outside of Japan fear,” wrote Sheila A. Smith, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, in a blog post. “Prime Minister Kishida needs a united party and a strong turnout on October 31st if he is to successfully tackle Japan’s difficult national agenda.”

Turnout will be crucial, as higher turnout tends to favor the opposition. At 10 a.m., three hours after the polls opened, the turnout was 6.32%, 0.83 points less than in the previous lower house election – but 16.6 million voted in advance, the Interior Ministry said.

The largest opposition group, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, is expected to win seats but nowhere near overthrow Kishida’s coalition.

“The only party with policies that target people in their twenties and thirties is the Constitutional Democrats, things like income tax and so on,” said 27-year-old clerk Daisuke Matsumoto. What about those of us who are childless? “

A major loss of LDP seats could spark party fighting and push Japan back into an era of short-lived governments that undermined its global importance until Shinzo Abe ruled the country for a record eight years until September 2020. The deaf Komeito could also gain more power in the coalition.

The uncertainty is high as the newspaper estimates that 40% of single-seat counties have tight races and recent polls show that around 40% of voters are undecided.

Voting ends at 8:00 p.m. (1100 GMT), with the forecast results likely to come from the media outlets polls soon after.

Kishida’s publicly stated goal is for his coalition to retain a majority of at least 233 seats https://www.reuters.com/article/japan-election/factbox-key-numbers-to-watch-in-japan-lower-house -wahl-idUSL4N2RI1CL, the 465 in the House of Commons. Before the election, the coalition had a commanding two-thirds majority of 305, the LDP had 276.

Investors and political observers are focused on whether the LDP – in power only briefly since it was founded in 1955 – can retain its majority as a single party. Losing that would undermine Kishida’s power base in the factional LDP and the party’s standing vis-à-vis the Komeito.

The normally fragmented opposition agrees and arranges for only one party – including the largely shunned Japanese Communist Party – to stand against the coalition in most districts, leading to a series of head-to-head battles, analysts say.

But the opposition failed to win the hearts of the electorate. According to a poll by public broadcaster NHK last week, only 8% support the constitutional Democrats, while 39% support the LDP.

“The other political parties are all scattered, so I can’t leave that to them with confidence,” said Hiroki Kita, 49, and advertising specialist.

“There’s only the LDP, but it’s a negative choice.”

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