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Abe eyes big win as Japan votes under North Korea threats

By: AFP October 23,2017 - 03:02 AM

Millions of Japanese braved typhoon conditions Sunday for a snap election likely to hand Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a fresh mandate to revive the world’s third-largest economy and press his hardline stance on North Korea.

If pre-vote surveys prove correct, Abe’s conservative coalition will cruise to a crushing majority to win a fresh term at the helm of the key US regional ally and Asian economic powerhouse.

Polling stations opened at 7:00 a.m. with voters battling high winds and driving rain as an election-day typhoon barreled towards Japan.

Despite the bad weather, voter turnout excluding early voting rose to 12.24 percent by 11:00 a.m. from 11.08 percent in the previous election three years ago, while a record 15.64 million had cast early votes by Friday, the government said.

Analysts earlier said low turnout would likely benefit Abe, who is aiming to become the country’s longest-serving leader.

“I support Abe’s stance not to give in to North Korea’s pressure,” said one voter, Yoshihisa Iemori, as he cast his ballot in Tokyo.

“I’m focusing on this point for the election,” the 50-year-old construction firm owner told AFP.

Near-constant drizzle throughout the campaign has not dampened the enthusiasm of hundreds of doughty, sash-wearing parliamentary hopefuls, who have driven around in minibuses pleading for votes via loudspeaker and bowing deeply to every potential voter.

But with little doubt over the eventual result, the suspense lies in whether Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its junior coalition partner will retain its two-thirds majority in the lower house.

Such a “supermajority” would allow Abe to propose changes to Japan’s US-imposed constitution that forces it to “renounce” war and effectively limits its military to a self-defense role.

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TAGS: election, Japan

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