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Candidates from 3 blocs aggressively competing in single-seat constituencies

People listen to a candidate's first speech of the general election campaign, in Nagoya, on Oct. 10, 2017. (Mainichi)

The ruling coalition, the conservative opposition bloc and the liberal opposition bloc are fiercely competing in many of the 289 single-seat constituencies amidst the 12-day campaigning period for the Oct. 22 House of Representatives election.

The three blocs -- the ruling coalition led by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the conservative opposition alliance led by the Party of Hope, and the liberal alliance centering on the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) -- actively fielded candidates in constituencies in the election, for which campaigning kicked off on Oct. 10.

The Party of Hope was newly established by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, and the largest opposition Democratic Party (DP) has decided to effectively merge into the new party. Mostly DP members who belonged to the party's liberal wing have founded the CDP after they shunned, or were rejected by, the Party of Hope.

In many constituencies, multiple opposition parties compete with each other, unlike the 2016 House of Councillors election in which opposition parties formed a united front against the ruling coalition in many electoral districts. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to predict the outcome of the general election.

In 149 of the 289 constituencies, the LDP-Komeito governing bloc clashes head-on with the conservative opposition Party of Hope or Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party).

In constituencies in Tohoku, Hokuriku, Shikoku and other regions where the Party of Hope does not have much influence, many of those who had previously intended to run on the ticket of the moribund DP switched to the Party of Hope.

Koike, leader of the Party of Hope, and Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, head of Nippon Ishin, agreed to prevent their candidates from vying against each other in the same constituencies. Under the accord, the Party of Hope did not field any candidates in Osaka Prefecture, Nippon Ishin's stronghold. As a result, the LDP and Nippon Ishin have a head-to-head race in roughly half of Osaka Prefecture's 19 electoral districts.

Moreover, the Party of Hope and Nippon Ishin chose not to field any candidates in eight constituencies where candidates of Komeito, the LDP's junior coalition partner, are running in the election.

However, in more than 90 percent of constituencies where the governing coalition and the conservative opposition bloc clash head-on, the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) or the Social Democratic Party (SDP) fielded their own candidates.

Therefore, it is inevitable that votes cast by people critical of the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be split into those for the conservative opposition bloc and the center-left parties. This is despite DP leader Seiji Maehara's vow to make sure that the election is a head-to-head fight between the ruling and opposition blocs.

In 47 constituencies, the race is a three-cornered fight among the ruling coalition, the conservative opposition bloc and the liberal opposition bloc comprising the CDP and former legislators of the DP and Liberal Party who were barred from joining the Party of Hope.

In many of these constituencies, the Party of Hope fielded candidates against former DP legislators who shunned, or were rejected by, the new party, including CDP leader Yukio Edano in the Saitama No. 5 constituency. Of the 47 electoral districts, 28 are in the Kanto region including Tokyo.

The ruling bloc has a head-to-head battle against candidates in the CDP-led bloc in 40 electoral districts, where the conservative opposition force did no field any candidates. Independents include former DP leader Katsuya Okada. In many of these electoral districts, opposition parties formed a united front after the JCP decided not to field its own candidates in favor of CDP and other opposition candidates.

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