Shinzo Abe nears two-thirds majority in Japan election - polls

Political party leaders seek support Tuesday from audiences on streets across the country after official campaigns for the House of Representatives election kicked off. Clockwise from top left Kibo no To leader Yuriko Koike Liberal Democratic Party Pres

Japan's leader pledges stability as election campaign begins

But the outlook has been clouded by the emergence of popular Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike's Party of Hope, a fledgling party that the former LDP lawmaker and defense minister calls a reformist, conservative alternative to Abe's LDP.

Abe says he needs to renew his mandate to tackle a "national crisis" stemming from North Korea's nuclear and missile threat and the demographic time-bomb of Japan's fast-ageing population. "It is the policies, rather than a boom or slogans, that can open the future".

A favorable result for Koike's party and its possible alliance with Abe's ruling party would mean a dominance of ultra-conservatives. "It is policy that creates our future", Abe said in Fukushima in northeast Japan.

Abe's LDP had 288 seats in the lower house before it was dissolved for the election, while its junior partner the Komeito had 35.

The LDP-led coalition is defending a two-thirds "super majority" in parliament's lower house, so losing its simple majority would be a major upset. The number of seats has been cut from 475 as part of electoral reforms.

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After an initial surge of support for Koike, critics say the Tokyo governor has suffered by not running herself in the election, meaning voters for her party are not sure who they are electing as PM. Support ratings for Abe's scandal-tainted government started to pick up while parliament was in recess during the summer.

A strong showing by Abe's coalition would boost his chances of winning a third term as LDP leader from next September, putting him on track to become Japan's longest-serving premier.

Koike, who defied the LDP previous year to run for governor, calls her fledgling party a "reformist, conservative" group free from the fetters of vested interests - an often popular campaign slogan in Japan.

"We must regain decent lives", Edano said.

Over 1,000 candidates are competing for 465 seats in Japan's lower house.

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Support for Ms Koike's new Party of Hope, which has transformed Japan's political landscape and swallowed up the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), appears to be deflating, with surveys predicting it might win around 60 seats.

On Thursday, the media-savvy Koike addressed hundreds of commuters at a bustling station in Tokyo, calling on supporters to "end the politics of Abe".

"I doubt she can deliver politics free from vested interests", said Minori Hiramatsu, a 28-year-old mother of one who was on her way to a job interview.

The Party of Hope echoes Abe's LDP on security and diplomacy - it backs tough sanctions on North Korea and controversial security measures adopted in 2015 to expand the military's role overseas.

A center-left Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, formed from the liberal wing of the failed Democratic Party, is wooing voters dissatisfied with both conservative options.

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