Japanese gov't clout to be determined by upper house vote

16:23, July 11, 2010      

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Polling stations across the nation opened their doors to a steady stream of voters on Sunday, as Japan held its first election since the change of government last summer, with polling numbers seemingly only slightly down on the 2007 election.

Thus far, the turnout was around 16.6 percent compared to 16.9 percent at the same time three years ago, with the outcome expected to have huge implications for Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). The DPJ need to win some 60 seats to maintain their wafer thin majority in the House of Councilors -- a tall order as the latest media surveys and exit polls have put the estimated number as low as 49, a figure which might just spell the end of Kan's brief stint in power.

Japan is struggling to escape from two decades of slow economic growth as well as crippling national debt and a host of societal problems, but Kan, perhaps unwittingly, has chosen to fight this election on the topic of consumption tax, an issue which has been the ruin of many Japanese politicians before him.

This has lead to a sense of confusion among voters, something which was evident at polling stations across the Kanto area on Sunday.

In Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, company employee Yuta Takenaka, 43, and his wife Harumi, 40, arrived at their local polling booth on bicycles.

"It's almost like a case of 'better the devil you know,'" Takenaka told Xinhua.

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