Japan elections: voters expected to sweep ruling party out of office

Campaigning continued until the last moment ahead of the general election, but there seemed little to stop the electorate ousting the unpopular LDP.

According to a Kyodo News poll released late on Thursday, 35.9 per cent of voters plan to back the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DJP), up 3.3 per cent from a week ago.The ruling LDP's support had also risen, but they are floundering on 17.9 per cent.

The minor parties will take another 15 per cent or so between them.

While there are a large number of voters who say they have not made up their mind yet, research indicates that most of these are also likely to back the DPJ.

Even a last, desperate move by the the LDP to court the youth vote by enlisting the support of SMAP, a hugely popular boy-band, appears to have failed.

The belated appeal to young voters came in the form of a flier wrapped around editions of the Right-wing Sankei newspaper this week, but the campaign has apparently had little impact as the latest public opinion polls show that the distance between the opposition and the government has widened further.

"SMAP have never been involved in a political campaign before and it is a surprise that they have apparently come to the aid of the LDP as that ship is very clearly sinking," said Steven Reed, a professor of Japanese politics at Chuo University.

"This is another sign of the desperation in the party," he said, pointing to the negative campaigning that the LDP has been forced to adopt in recent days.

The government led by Taro Aso had portrayed his opponent, Yukio Hatoyama, as being inexperienced and trying to win over voters with promises that will be impossible to keep.

There is some merit in the LDP pointing out that the DPJ is promising to spend big and rapidly fix Japan's problems, but being vague on where the money to achieve that will come from. The voters are, however, too tired of the LDP's own broken promises, controversial economic reforms, and overseeing the financial collapse of the country to pay their protestations much heed.

"When the economy is good, prime ministers are popular. But in difficult times, that popularity fades," SMAP stated in the advert, titled "How to build a happy nation."

"But these are people that we have elected, so let's make some allowances and continue to support them."

It is unclear whether the comments are genuinely those of the five stars of the band, or their agents.

But even a group that has dominated the domestic music scene appears unlikely to be influential enough to reverse the defeat that the LDP is almost certain to suffer on Sunday.


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