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Japan's early voting system for upcoming general election kicks off nationwide, overseas voters cast ballots
From:Xinhua  |  2017-10-11 19:17

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TOKYO, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- Japan's early voting system began Wednesday nationwide for the upcoming general election on Oct. 22, with those unable to vote on the scheduled day casting their ballots early.

Following official campaigning by party candidates and independents running in the lower house election race beginning Tuesday, polling stations, such as one inside the municipal office of Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture in western Japan, started accepting ballots.

According to Japan's public broadcaster NHK, voters were casting their ballots at the polling station in Matsuyama City after writing down the reasons why they cannot vote on the voting day.

The upcoming general election, called by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with the dissolution of the lower chamber of Japan's bicameral parliament on Sept. 28, will be the first nationwide election that will see 18 and 19-year-olds eligible to vote.

NHK reported that, due to the new, younger demographic of voters expected to cast their ballots, a number of polling stations have been set up inside educational institutions, such as at universities and high schools.

Stations open for the early voting system will be available for voters to cast their ballots until Oct. 21, a day before the voting day.

For eligible voters wanting to cast their ballots from outside Japan, ballot stations have been set up at 223 locations abroad. These include at embassies and consulates.

This will accommodate the 101,000 Japanese who are registered to vote overseas, NHK said, adding that in the South Korean capital of Seoul, voting began on Wednesday morning.

Around 2,500 Japanese living or studying in South Korea are registered there to vote, and embassy officials will be charged with bringing the ballots back to Japan to be counted on Oct. 22.

Regardless of when the voting begins overseas, as there is some variation from region to region, all ballots must be cast by next Monday.

Abe dissolved the more powerful lower chamber of parliament on Sept. 28, stating that he needed to get a fresh mandate on ways to deal with ongoing security issues, as well as on spending from the planned consumption tax hike.

The timing of the snap election, political observers have attested, was to give opposition parties little time to fully gear up for the election and create a viable threat to the ruling coalition.

Political watchers and opposition parties have also taken aim at Abe's move as being, in part, a bid to avoid being grilled in the Diet over as yet unconcluded allegations of cronyism and influence-peddling scandals.

The ruling camp, in response, effectively realigned itself.

The newly-formed Party of Hope, headed by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, and the upstart Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), headed by former chief Cabinet secretary Yukio Edano and their affiliates, have garnered a great deal of public attention and gained traction since their rapid formation.

The election is thought by political analysts to be a three horse race between Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party coalition, Koike's Party of Hope, which is working closely with the Nippon Ishin party (Japan Restoration Party) and Edno's CDPJ, which itself is working closely with the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party.