A landmark Japanese election – one that all the polls say will see the ejection of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for only the second time in 53 years – is nearing a climax. Voting ends at 8pm in Japan, which is 12 noon in London, and 7am on the US East Coast.
After that, we expect things to move fast. Exit polls should be available rapidly, and with electronic voting in many polling stations, some urban seats may produce results early in the evening, with a possible concession in the early hours of the morning if the outcome is clear.
I will be updating the site throughout the evening, and with correspondents at both LDP and Democratic Party of Japan HQs, we are planning an extensive package on what it all means for tomorrow’s paper.
In the meantime, here’s a guide on what to look out for this evening:
- Voting is in two parts. There are 300 first-past-the-post constituencies and 180 seats elected from 11 proportional representation blocks. The first-past-the-post system means that big swings are possible.
- In 2005, the LDP won 219 constituencies and 77 PR seats, for a total of 296. The DPJ won 52 constituencies and 61 PR seats for a total of 113. For details on the outcome last time, visit Adam Carr’s Elections Archive or Wikipedia.
- The main question, therefore, is whether the DPJ can get to 241 seats and secure an absolute majority. Some polls suggest it will get 300, or even 320, which would mean a two-thirds supermajority and the power to force bills through the Diet’s upper house.
- There are lots of interesting subplots. One is the fate of the smaller parties – New Komeito, the LDP’s Buddhist allies; the Social Democrats; the Communists; and several others – who look likely to be squeezed by the DPJ.
- Another is the fate of several LDP big-hitters who are in danger of losing their seats. Some would be saved via the PR lists – but at grave cost to their prestige.
- Areas to watch include Tokyo, where the DPJ won only one single-seat constituency of the 25 last time, and may win 20 this time. That could include the Tokyo No. 1 district of finance minister Kaoru Yosano, and the Tokyo No. 10 seat of Yuriko Koike, the female former defence minister seen as a possible future leader of the LDP.
- On the northern island of Hokkaido, the LDP is at risk of annihilation in the 12 single-seat constituencies, which would mean defeat for faction leader Nobutaka Machimura, former finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa, and former LDP secretary-general Tsutomu Takebe. With the LDP likely to win a maximum of 3 seats in the Hokkaido PR block, all three would be unlikely to survive.
- Several former prime ministers risk defeat. In Ishikawa No. 2, former PM Yoshiro Mori is in a close race with a 33 year-old DPJ candidate called Mieko Tanaka. Yasuo Fukuda, who was the PM before current LDP leader Taro Aso, is also in a tight race in Gunma No. 4.
Stick with us this evening – whatever happens, it’s going to be interesting.