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Strongly favored LDP wary of candidates relaxing ahead of election

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which is forecast to score a landslide victory in the Oct. 22 House of Representatives election, possibly winning 300 seats or more, is wary of its candidates and their campaign staff relaxing ahead of the poll, and is urging them to stay focused.

At an election strategy meeting on Oct. 16, high-ranking members of the LDP designated more than 50 single-seat constituencies as "priority" areas where the party needs to bolster support for its candidates. The party then decided to dispatch party executives and Cabinet ministers to these districts to deliver campaign speeches in support of candidates running in these districts.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who leads the LDP, told the meeting, "I'd like to simply and honestly talk about our policy measures and ask for public support."

Party officials analyzed the situations in single-seat electoral districts where its candidates are on the back foot, mainly those in Hokkaido and Okinawa Prefecture where opposition parties have formed a united front.

Senior LDP officials shared the view that the governing party has the upper hand only because of the split in the opposition bloc.

Following the meeting, Ryu Shionoya, head of the LDP's election strategy panel, told reporters that "we do not feel at all" that the party has the lead in the election.

On the same day, Prime Minister Abe delivered campaign speeches in six constituencies in Osaka Prefecture. In the city of Takatsuki, which is part of the Osaka No. 10 electoral district, Abe said, "We have an extremely close battle in this constituency in every single election."

Komeito, the LDP's junior coalition partner which put up candidates in nine single-seat constituencies, confirmed at an executive meeting that the situations in the Hokkaido No. 10 and Kanagawa No. 6 districts are severe. Komeito also believes that it needs to bolster public support for the party in the Tohoku, northern Kanto and Kyushu proportional representation blocs.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, leader of the Party of Hope that has considerably lost the momentum it had at the time of its formation, is desperate to regain public support.

"We're fighting an uphill battle under the banner of hope," Koike said in a campaign speech in Karatsu, Saga Prefecture.

Koike, who is the party's symbol in its campaign, left the Tokyo metropolitan area for only three days during the first seven days after the campaigning kicked off on Oct. 10. On weekdays, she performs her duty as governor while delivering campaign speeches.

The Party of Hope had initially been believed to have the upper hand in Tokyo constituencies because Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First party), effectively led by Koike, scored a landslide victory in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election in July. However, since her party is fighting an uphill battle even in the capital, she has no leeway to travel to other regions to campaign for candidates running on the ticket of her party.

Koike sent an email to her party's candidates on Oct. 15, underscoring the need for slashing remunerations for legislators and saying, "LDP politics with numerous constraints can't achieve this." She is thus trying to clarify points of contention between her party and the LDP.

The presence of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) as a political force that attracts votes from those critical of the Abe government has declined considerably because new political forces -- the Party of Hope and the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) -- were founded prior to the election.

JCP Chairman Kazuo Shii told a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan on Oct. 16 that the party is cooperating closely with other liberal opposition parties -- the CDP and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) -- in the general election.

"Since we have fielded uniform candidates in many constituencies, we'll aim for the maximum victories for our candidates. The JCP will put its efforts into winning in proportional representation blocs in a bid to increase its strength," Shii said.

Yukio Edano, leader of the CDP that is expected to increase its strength thanks to its election cooperation with the JCP and the SDP, has urged the public to join hands with these opposition parties to change Japan's politics.

"There're many people who think politics won't change even if they try to change it. We should encourage as many people as possible to 'change politics together,'" Edano said in a campaign speech in Yokohama.

Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui, leader of the conservative opposition Nippon Ishin (Japan Innovation Party), is rather cool toward the election. "Since opposition parties remain split, it's only natural that the ruling bloc will score an overwhelming victory. None of the opposition parties has enough capacity to attract votes from those critical of the government," he told the Mainichi Shimbun.

SDP leader Tadatomo Yoshida said in a campaign speech in Kagoshima, "Our prospects are severe, but we'd like to secure at least two seats in Kyushu, which has been the SDP's stronghold."

Masashi Nakano, head of the Party for Japanese Kokoro, delivered a campaign speech in Sendai, saying, "We'll say what we should say to the LDP and Komeito."

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