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Japanese politicians make final push for votes

Candidates in Japan’s parliamentary election have used the last few hours of the campaign to make their final pitches to the voters. Opinon polls suggest a return of the party that has dominated Japan’s post-war era.

Party leaders and other candidates spent Saturday pressing the flesh in public places such as busy train stations, trying to win over the undecided or convince their supporters to turn out to vote.

More than 1,500 candidates are running in Sunday's election for the 480 seats that make up Japan's lower house of parliament.

The latest opinion polls suggest voters are likely to dump the government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and his Democratic Party and replace it with the Liberal Democratic Party, which has ruled Japan for most of the past several decades.

This would pave the way for a return to the prime minister's office of Shinzo Abe, who held the premiership from 2006 to 2007. However, surveys also indicate that up to 40 percent of eligible voters remain undecided. It is also unclear what role a number of newly formed parties could play in the make up of the new legislature.

Spending plans criticized

If elected, Abe has pledged to heal Japan's economic woes by implementing policies targeting deflation.

"With stronger monetary policies, fiscal policies and growth policies, with these three pillars, we will definitely end deflation," Abe said in remarks published in the Yomiuri Shimbun daily.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda attends the lower house financial affairs committee after a parliamentary debate with main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) leader Shinzo Abe in Tokyo November 14, 2012.

Polls suggest Noda is on his way out

Incumbent Prime Minister Noda criticized Abe's spending plans, warning against the LDP's pledge to fund major infrastructure projects at a time of tight public coffers.

"The election is about whether we can move forward or turn back the clock," he said at a Tokyo train station, according to the Sankei Shimbun newspaper.

An Abe-led government could also be expected to take a harder line in foreign policy. The conservative has pledged to “repair the Japan-US alliance and firmly defend our territorial soil and waters.”

This could appeal to some Japanese voters just days after North Korea carried out a successful rocket launch that passed over Japan and amid a brewing dispute between Tokyo and Beijing over a chain of islands controlled by Japan but also claimed by China.

pfd/sej (AFP, dpa, Reuters)