A pedestrian walks past a poster bulletin board for the lower house electoral candidates in Tokyo, Japan, October 10, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Campaigning has begun in Japan for snap general elections, which mainly pit Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) against Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s newly-founded Party of Hope.
The 63-year-old Abe kicked off his campaign on Tuesday by visiting the northern prefecture of Fukushima, where he told crowds that the experience he had gained in years of practicing politics was what was needed to pull the country out of a “national crisis.”
Abe, who has called the snap elections for October 22, claimed North Korea’s weapons development program and the aging population of Japan had plunged the country into the crisis, forcing him to want to renew his mandate with stronger public support.
The LDP-led coalition is seeking a two-thirds “super majority” in the parliament’s lower house, but it risks losing the simple majority that it already has.
Abe’s LDP had 288 seats in the lower house before the chamber was dissolved for the elections; its junior partner, the Komeito, had 35.
The sudden emergence of Koike’s party, which also appeals to conservative voters, could upset the equation.
Ruling Liberal Democratic Party President and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and the head of Party of Hope and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike pose for photographs before their debate ahead of general elections at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, on October 8, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Koike calls her fledgling party a “reformist, conservative” group free from the fetters of vested interests — an often popular campaign slogan in Japan.
“We have a surplus of things in this country, but what we don’t have is hope for the future,” said Koike, 65, kicking off her party’s campaign outside one of Tokyo’s major train stations.
Recent opinion polls show the LDP in the lead, and some analysts think Abe could pull off another landslide victory.
“The Party of Hope looks a lot like the LDP, but doesn’t have the same problem with vested interests,” said Koji Sasaya, an 82-year-old US resident and longtime LDP supporter who travelled to Japan to vote in the election for Koike’s new party.
Other voters, however, seemed less convinced by Koike’s talk of cleaner politics, while trusting Abe to safeguard national security.
“I doubt she can deliver politics free from vested interests,” said Minori Hiramatsu, a 28-year-old mother. “Abe has problems domestically, but he is the best person to protect us from North Korean threats.”
Another party contesting the elections is the center-left Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.

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