Leaders for Japan’s biggest political parties are kicking off the campaign for parliamentary elections to be held in less than two weeks with visits to nuclear crisis-hit Fukushima prefecture.
Nuclear energy and the economy are key issues in the Dec. 16 election, which is widely expected to send Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s unpopular Democratic Party of Japan to defeat after three years in power.
The opposition Liberal Democratic Party is leading in the polls, but is unlikely to win a majority of seats in the lower house of parliament.
The most likely outcome of the election is a coalition government whose makeup is far from clear.
Polls show more than 40 percent of voters don’t know which party they’ll support in the election.
Outspoken leaders from Japan’s two biggest cities formed a national political party Saturday, seeking to become “a third force” to lure undecided voters and challenge the country’s two biggest parties.
Nationalist Shintaro Ishihara, who resigned as Tokyo governor to create his own party this week, said he is scrapping his four-day-old group to join the Japan Restoration Party formed in September by the young and brash mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto.
The announcement comes the day after Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda dissolved the lower house of parliament, paving the way elections next month. His ruling party is expected to give way to a weak coalition government divided over how to tackle Japan’s myriad problems. The biggest problems are getting a stagnant economy going again and reconstruction after the crippling March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Elections are set for Dec. 16, with official campaigning starting Dec. 4. If Noda’s centrist party loses, the economically sputtering country will get its seventh prime minister in six and a half years.
Read the rest of the story: Tokyo ex-governor joins new conservative party.