TOKYO (DPA) – Voter turnout was light in Japan's parliamentary elections Sunday as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was expected to win an easy victory despite a faltering economy.
Analysts said turnout could be around 50 per cent or even lower, compared with the record low 59 per cent set during the 2012 general election.
Japanese appear increasingly disenchanted with politics and the stagnating economy. Weather forecasters also warned of heavy snow in some parts of the country.
A low turnout could be an advantage to the LDP and its junior coalition partner New Komeito, which have solidly organized their support, analysts said.
The coalition was expected to win two-thirds of the 475 seats in the lower house of parliament, a survey conducted by the Kyodo News agency showed last week.
Despite the prime minister's radical stimulus policies, the world's third-largest economy sank into recession after a controversial increase in the sales tax to 8 per cent in April from 5 per cent.
In mid-November, Abe decided to put off the second tax increase next year and dissolve the lower house for snap elections halfway through his four-year term.
The opposition camp is hopelessly fragmented, with the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) facing another major defeat, analysts said.
In the 2012 elections, the LDP achieved an overwhelming victory, retaking power from the DPJ after three years of its lacklustre rule.
"The DPJ proved to be a major disappointment and I have never supported the LDP," a woman in her 70s said in central Tokyo.
"The Japanese Communist Party (JCP) is the only party I can vote for," she said.
The JCP is hoping to take anti-Abe votes from other opposition parties as it has strong stances against war, poverty and nuclear power, drawing more young people and non-affiliated voters, analysts said.
Anti-nuclear sentiment is still riding high following a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011.
Many people also oppose Abe's move to expand the military's role overseas, after his cabinet decided to reinterpret the pacifist constitution to allow a greater use of force overseas.
Article 9 of the charter forbids the use of Japan's forces to settle international disputes.
"Many people don't pay enough attention to the elections. Tokyo-based political analyst Minoru Morita said. "More and more voters don't trust legislators."
Polling stations were scheduled to close at 8 pm (1100 GMT), when local media were expected to release exit poll results.