Japan votes: opposition tipped to win
Tokyo, August 30, 2009
Japanese voted in an election on Sunday that looked set to oust the long-ruling conservative party and give the untested opposition the job of nurturing a recovery from the country's worst recession since World War Two.
Media surveys suggested the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) could win the lower house election by a landslide in a historic victory over the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) that has ruled for most of the past 50 years, though some analysts say those predictions may be excessive.
A DPJ victory would break a deadlock in parliament, where the opposition and its allies won control of the less powerful upper chamber in 2007 and can delay bills. Financial markets would generally welcome an end to the deadlock.
"I don't like what's going on now in this country. Things have to change," said Kazuya Tsuda, a 78-year-old retired doctor in Tokyo who voted for the Democratic Party.
"I don't think the Democrats can do everything they have pledged under their platform, but it should be better than the current political situation under the LDP."
Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama, 62, the wealthy grandson of a former prime minister, told voters on Saturday the election would change Japanese history.
"This is an election to choose whether voters can muster the courage to do away with the old politics," he said.
Japanese media will announce the results of exit polls after voting ends at 8 pm. (1100 GMT). Later in the evening they will issue further projections based on partial vote counts.
Turnout was 21.37 percent as of 11 am (0200 GMT), the Internal Affairs Ministry said, up 0.76 point from the 2005 election when voters turned out in droves to hand charismatic Junichiro Koizumi's LDP a huge win.
The Democrats have pledged to refocus spending on households with child allowances and aid for farmers while taking control of policy from bureaucrats, often blamed for Japan's failure to tackle problems such as a creaking pension system.
The party wants to forge a diplomatic stance more independent of the United States and build better ties with Asia, often strained by bitter wartime memories. - Reuters