Japan’s main conservative party is on course for a resounding victory in Sunday’s election, with exit polls indicating it could take control of two-thirds of the lower house, consigning the centre-left government to a crushing defeat.
The Liberal Democratic Party, ousted from office three years ago, has staged a dramatic comeback under its leader, Shinzo Abe, who is assured of becoming prime minister.
Exit polls showed the LDP would win 296 seats in the 480-seat lower house, while its longtime ally, New Komeito, was on course to win 32 seats. Combined, the tally would give the parties the “super-majority” they need to take total control of both houses of parliament and end years of policy deadlock and instability.
Abe, who resigned as prime minister in 2007 after a year of scandals involving cabinet ministers, has promised to take a tougher stance towards China over the Senkaku islands, give Japan’s armed forces a bigger international role and retain nuclear power, despite opposition to atomic energy in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi meltdown.
On the economy — the single biggest issue of the campaign — Abe has pledged to return to high spending on public works and ease monetary policy to boost growth.
The governing Democratic party of Japan DPJ is expected to suffer a heavy defeat, three years after it ended the LDP’s near-monopoly on power with a landslide victory.
Turnout was sluggish at just over 27% by mid-afternoon, down 7.8 percentage points from 2009, according to government data.