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Asia-Pacific
Japan rivals make final appeals
Prime minister urges voters not to abandon ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2009 19:28 GMT

Hatoyama has campaigned for change on a platform of social welfare initiatives [Reuters]

Japan's political leaders have been making final attempts to woo voters before Sunday's elections that are widely predicted to sweep the opposition into power.

Taro Aso, the incumbent prime minister, on Saturday appealed to voters not to abandon his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has governed Japan almost continuously since 1955.

"Can you trust these people?" Aso asked as he urged the electorate not to support the opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

Speaking to a crowd in Oyama City, north of Tokyo, he said: "It's a problem if you feel uneasy whether they can really run this country."

Aso said that he needed more time to implement economic measures aimed at pulling the country out of its economic slump, but opinion polls have indicated that voters are unlikely to give it to him.

Opinion poll lead

Surveys in major newspapers, including the Mainichi and the Asahi, said that the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) of Yukio Hatoyama was likely to win more than 320 seats in the 480-member lower house of parliament.

Hatoyama travelled to the city of Sakai in western Japan on Saturday where he repeated his call for voters to support change.

"At last, it is the election tomorrow, one that we will be able to tell the next generation changed Japanese history," he said.

In depth


 
Video: Japan's ruling party 'at risk'
 Video: The age factor in elections
 Changing face of Japanese politics
 Profile: Taro Aso
 Profile: Yukio Hatoyama
 Japan election: Party pledges
 101 East: Japan elections

The LDP has ruled power for all but 10 months since it was founded in 1955, but the DPJ already controls the less powerful upper house of parliament following elections in 2007.

Under a mantra of "Putting People's Lives First", the DPJ has offered a platform heavy on social-welfare initiatives, including cash handouts for job seekers in training and families with children.

"We will stop bureaucracy-led politics and draft policies through dialogue with the Japanese people," Hatoyama said. 

But Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University in Japan, said that voters seemed set to vote for "change that they don't believe in and for a leader they are not all that crazy about".

"Polls show that only 25 per cent of people actually believe that the DPJ is actually going to lead the country in the right direction," he told Al Jazeera from Tokyo.

"Everybody is so deeply frustrated with the ruling party that they are desperate for change. The vote for the DPJ is not a mandate on their platform; it is just a verdict on the hopelesness of the current situation."

Hatoyama will face tough challenges if he does succeed with the nation suffering its worst unemployment since the second world war and lingering deflation.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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