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Record 330,000 Tokyoites cast early election votes

The number of people in Tokyo who cast early votes ahead of the Oct. 22 House of Representatives election during the first half of the campaign period rose by 1.31 times from the corresponding period in the last general election, reaching a record 335,643 as of Oct. 15, a report by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Election Administration Commission has shown.

According to an interim report released by the commission on Oct. 16, the number of early votes cast by Tokyoites for single-seat constituencies between Oct. 11 and 15 reached 335,643, an increase by 78,572 from the corresponding period in the previous general election in 2014 and an all-time high among all five lower house elections that have been called since the current early voting system was introduced in the country.

By municipality, the suburban city of Hachioji saw the highest number of early voters, at 26,781, followed by Nerima Ward at 24,473 and Ota Ward at 16,445.

In past lower house elections, the number of early voters in the September 2005 poll reached 209,508 during the first half of the campaign period, accounting for 2.03 percent of all registered voters in Tokyo, while the figures reached 302,798 in the August 2009 election (2.84 percent), 255,512 in the December 2012 poll (2.37 percent), and 257,071 in the December 2014 election (2.36 percent). The percentage for this election reached 2.96 percent.

The Oct. 22 election is a three-way race between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the newly founded Party of Hope headed by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, and the liberal opposition forces centering on the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, a splinter group from the largest opposition Democratic Party (DP). Behind the record number of early voters in this election apparently lies growing public interest in the election due to the heated race, as well as wider recognition of the early vote system among voters.

However, the turnout on election day still remains to be seen. The 2005 and 2009 general elections saw high voter turnout in Tokyo, topping 65 percent, respectively. The privatization of postal services became the focal point of contention in the 2005 poll, while the 2009 election resulted in the government changing hands to the Democratic Party of Japan, the predecessor of the DP.

In the 2012 lower house election, through which the LDP returned to power, voter turnout stood low at a national average of 59.32 percent, while that in Tokyo reached 62.2 percent, in part because the election in the capital was held in conjunction with the Tokyo gubernatorial race and the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly by-election.

The turnout in the 2014 general election plunged to 54.36 percent, the second lowest in the postwar era, after campaign debate over "Abenomics," the economic policy mix promoted by the Abe administration, failed to garner voter attention.

Local election administration commissions have been putting their efforts into increasing voter turnout in their respective prefectures through various activities to raise awareness among the public.

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