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Japan Voters Expected to Reaffirm Abe's Leadership

  • VOA News

A man casts his ballot in a lower-house parliamentary election in Tokyo, Dec. 14, 2014.

A man casts his ballot in a lower-house parliamentary election in Tokyo, Dec. 14, 2014.

Voters in Japan have begun casting ballots in an early general election likely to keep Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party in power.

Touted as a referendum on Abe's economic policies, the vote, according to pre-election surveys, was not expected to be close. Analysts predicted the ruling LDP and its junior coalition partner would win more than 300 seats in the 475-member lower house.

Vote counting is expected to begin Sunday night, with normally reliable exit polls expected soon afterward.

A new voter mandate would grant Abe four more years to implement difficult reforms, including a reduction in the country's massive debt and restructuring of its agriculture sector.

Abe won a rare second term as prime minister in 2012, with promises to reboot Japan's stagnant economy, which has been plagued by low birth rates, as well as a shrinking and aging population.

Since then, corporate profits have boomed as the Japanese yen weakened in value. The economy, however, slipped back into recession in April, following a sales tax increase.

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