Japan LDP and partner on track for big election win-surveys
TOKYO (Reuters) - Hawkish former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its smaller ally are on track for a resounding victory in Sunday's election, winning more than 300 seats in parliament's 480-member lower house, media surveys showed on Tuesday.
Abe, 58, who resigned abruptly as premier in 2007 after a troubled year in office, has vowed to press the Bank of Japan for radical monetary easing and spend more on public works to beat persistent deflation and a strong yen. He has also pledged to take a bolder stance on security policy.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Democratic Party of Japan, which surged to power in 2009 for the first time, may get fewer than 80 seats, the Sankei and Mainichi newspaper surveys showed.
The conservative Sankei said an LDP-New Komeito party coalition could even win the two-thirds majority needed to over-ride parliament's upper house, where no party has a majority and which can block bills. But the paper cautioned that almost 40 percent of those surveyed had not decided how to vote.
Right-leaning Japan Restoration Party (JRP), led by popular Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and octogenarian nationalist Shintaro Ishihara, could win around 50 seats, the polls showed.
A solid LDP-New Komeito majority would make any formal coalition with the JRP less likely, but the party's showing could make it a force to contend with in the future.
The Bank of Japan will likely ease monetary policy next week, sources say, as looming risks such as the potential fallout from the U.S. fiscal cliff and weak Chinese growth cloud the outlook for an economy already seen as in recession.
The most likely option is for the central bank to expand its asset-buying and lending program, currently at 91 trillion yen ($1.1 trillion), by another 5-10 trillion yen, at the meeting on December 19-20, sources familiar with its thinking have said.
For now, many in the central bank want to hold off on any new initiatives unless the U.S. Federal Reserve, which holds its policy-setting meeting this week, surprises markets with a bigger-than-expected stimulus and triggers a sharp yen rise.
Abe, the grandson of a wartime cabinet minister who became prime minister after World War Two, also favors a tough stance against China in a territorial row and loosening the limits of Japan's 65-year-old pacifist constitution on the military.
A stronger Japan would act as a counterbalance to the military rise of China, something that is worrying smaller Asian nations as tensions grow over conflicting territorial claims in the region, the Philippines said on Monday.
Revising the pacifist constitution would require a two-thirds majority in both houses as well as a majority in a public referendum, but changes to how it is interpreted are easier to accomplish.
Others surveys by the Asahi and Yomiuri newspapers also showed the LDP widening its lead over the DPJ, but with a hefty chunk of voters still undecided.