Japan polls tip big win for opposition

2012-12-06 12:00

Tokyo - Japan's main opposition party will comfortably win the general election this month, opinion polls showed on Thursday, the first time surveys have indicated anything other than a fragile coalition.

The hawkish chief of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Shinzo Abe is also tipped to win back the premiership, an office he held for around a year until 2007, according to a telephone poll conducted by Kyodo news agency.

The LDP is on course to win up to 306 of the 480 seats in lower house of parliament on December 16, with the projected tally representing a huge jump from the 118 seats the party currently has.

The survey of 123 700 eligible voters showed Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) will see its number of seats plunge to between 57 and 82 from the 308 it swept to power with in 2009.

Around 1 500 candidates, fielded by 12 parties or standing as independents, are vying for the 480 seats - 300 in single-seat constituencies and 180 allocated for proportional representation in 11 blocs.

Previous opinion polls have shown a much tighter race, with commentators expecting the election would leave Japan with a fragile coalition government.

Gaining momentum

Kyodo noted about half the voters said they had not yet decided on who to vote for.

Similar surveys by the mass-circulation Asahi and Yomiuri dailies, released on Thursday, also showed the LDP was gaining momentum and was on course to win a single-party majority.

The Kyodo survey said the LDP's potential junior coalition partner New Komeito party is likely to win between 25 and 31 seats.

If the two parties joined forces they would have a two-thirds majority in the powerful lower house, giving them the right to overrule the DPJ-dominated upper house.

The Japan Restoration Party, an unwieldy coalition of followers of Osaka's outspoken mayor Toru Hashimoto and of the China-bashing former governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, is likely to become a third-largest party, the polls showed.

The Tomorrow Party of Japan, a hastily cobbled-together grouping of DPJ malcontents and a left-leaning newcomers pledging to end Japan's nuclear power programme in 10 years, could have just 15 seats.

This month's vote is being seen as a verdict on the DPJ's three-year rule, which included the turbulent months after the nuclear disaster plunged the nation into its biggest crisis since World War II.