By Sakura Murakami and Elaine Lies
TOKYO, Oct.31 (Reuters) – Japanese voters went to the polls on Sunday to decide whether to back the conservative government of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida or weaken the new prime minister and possibly bring the world’s third largest economy back to a period of political uncertainty.
Voting is https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/tightrope-election-may-spell-uncertain-future-japans-new-prime-minister-2021-10-28 test for Kishida, who called the election shortly after taking the top post earlier this month, and for his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has been battered by its perceived mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic.
Already, Kishida has struggled to advance policies to help the poorest people https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/japan-confronts-rising-inequality-after-abenomics-2021-10-12 , while getting 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 on Chin https://www.reuters.com/business/cop/japans-okinawa-ruling-partys-tough-china-stance-helps-win-young-voters-2021-10-29a.
With its lackluster image that does not inspire voters, the PLD is on the verge of losing its only majority in the lower house of parliament for the first time since 2009, according to opinion polls, although its coalition with its partner junior Komeito should remain in charge. .
Several key PLD lawmakers also face particularly difficult competitions, including Akira Amari, the party’s general secretary.
“Revolving-door prime ministers are a weakness many outside of Japan fear,” Sheila A. Smith, senior member of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in a blog post. “Prime Minister Kishida will need a unified party and strong electoral representation on October 31 if he is to successfully tackle Japan’s difficult national agenda.”
Turnout will be crucial, as higher turnout tends to favor opposition, but many choose to vote away.
The largest opposition group, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, is expected to win seats but will not come close to toppling Kishida’s coalition.
Still, a great loss of PLD seats could lead to internal strife between the parties, returning Japan to an era of short-lived administrations that diminished its global stature, until Shinzo Abe ruled the country for eight. years, a record until September 2020. The accommodating Komeito could also gain more weight within the coalition.
Uncertainty is high, with the Nikkei newspaper estimating that 40% of single-member districts have tight races and recent polls showing around 40% of voters undecided.
Voting ends at 8:00 p.m. (11:00 GMT), with expected results likely to come out shortly after exit media polls.
Kishida’s publicly stated goal is for her coalition to retain a majority, at least 233 seats https://www.reuters.com/article/japan-election/factbox-key-numbers-to-watch-in-japan-lower -house -election-idUSL4N2RI1CL, from 465 to lower house. Prior to the election, the coalition held a two-thirds majority of 305, the LDP holding 276.
Investors and political observers wonder if the PLD – in power for brief periods since its formation in 1955 – can retain its majority as a single party. Losing this would erode Kishida’s power base in the LDP party and the party’s stance against the Komeito.
The usually divided opposition is united, arranging for a single party – including the largely shunned Japanese Communist Party – to confront the coalition in most districts, analysts claiming this creates a number of side-to-side battles. elbow.
But the opposition has failed to win the hearts of voters, with just 8% supporting Constitutional Democrats while 39% supporting the LDP, according to a poll carried out last week by state broadcaster NHK.
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami, Elaine Lies, Irene Wang and Daniel Leussink; Writing by Sakura Murakami and Elaine Lies; Editing by William Mallard)