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Japan heads to polls as change expected, major parties vying for premiership

Published on Dec 16, 2012 6:26 AM
People holding Japan's national flags listen to a speech by a candidate of Japan's main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) at Akihabara electronics store district in Tokyo on Dec15, 2012, on the last election campaign day ahead of Sunday's general election. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - Voters began casting ballots in Japan on Sunday for a general election likely to return long-ruling conservatives to power after three years in the wilderness.

Polling stations opened at 7am (6am, Singapore time) across the nation in a lower house election, officials said, with major parties vying for premiership.

The government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was predicted to get a drubbing from an electorate that observers said would be handing the reins reluctantly to the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Hawkish one-time PM Shinzo Abe appeared set for a return to office, after a campaign in which he has sketched out a harder line on foreign policy, as tensions rise with China over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

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