Japan heads to polls, conservative LDP seen returning to power

Sat Dec 15, 2012 1:06pm EST
 
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By Linda Sieg

TOKYO (Reuters) - Voters were expected to return Japan's conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to power in an election on Sunday after a three year hiatus, giving ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a chance to push his hawkish security agenda and radical economic recipe.

An LDP win would usher in a government committed to a tough stance in a territorial row with China, a pro-nuclear power energy policy despite last year's Fukushima disaster and a potentially risky prescription for hyper-easy monetary policy and big fiscal spending to beat deflation and tame a strong yen.

Media surveys have forecast the LDP will win a big majority in parliament's powerful 480-seat lower house, just three years after a devastating defeat that ended more than 50 years of almost non-stop rule by the business-friendly party. However, many voters remained undecided just days before the vote, the polls showed.

Together with a small ally, Abe's LDP could even gain the two-thirds majority needed to break through a policy deadlock that has plagued successive governments for half a decade.

Polls open at 0700 a.m. (1700 ET) and close at 8 p.m. (0600 EDT), when major TV broadcasters will issue exit polls forecasting results.

Abe, 58, who quit abruptly as premier in 2007 after a troubled year in office, has been talking tough in a row with China over uninhabited isles in the East China Sea, although some experts say he may temper his hard line with pragmatism once in office.

The soft-spoken grandson of a prime minister, who would become Japan's seventh premier in six years, Abe also wants to loosen the limits of a 1947 pacifist constitution on the military, so Japan can play a bigger global security role.

The LDP, which promoted atomic energy during its decades-long reign, is expected to be friendly to nuclear utilities, although deep public safety concerns remain a barrier to business as usual for the industry.   Continued...

 
Japan's main opposition Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) leader and former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks to voters atop a campaign van at Akihabara electronics store district in Tokyo December 15, 2012, on the last election campaign day ahead of Sunday's general election. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao