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May 28, 2017

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Tight polls suggest Japanese post-vote confusion

TOKYO -- Japan's opposition Liberal Democratic Party's lead has shrunk in the polls ahead of a Dec. 16 election, suggesting the conservative party and its partner may need help to make up a majority and threatening more policy confusion for the world's third-biggest economy.

Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's LDP is expected to win the biggest number of seats in parliament's powerful lower house, putting Abe in pole position to form the next government, most likely with long-term LDP ally, the smaller New Komeito.

But polls published on Monday showed a dwindling lead for the LDP over Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which has seen its support sag since sweeping to power for the first time three years ago promising change.

"As of yesterday, I thought that the LDP and New Komeito together would scrape by with a majority," said Katsuhiko Nakamura, executive director of think tank Asian Forum Japan.

"Now, I wonder."

A poll by the Asahi newspaper showed 20 percent of voters would cast their ballots for the LDP, down three percentage points from a Nov. 26 survey. The DPJ ranked second with 15 percent, up two points, while the right-leaning Japan Restoration party was third with nine percent, unchanged from the previous poll.

"This is going to be a tough election. But I see a trend emerging where (support for) the LDP is slipping a little and the DPJ is gaining somewhat," Noda told reporters in Monday.

"In the election campaign that will be starting tomorrow, I'm determined to do my utmost and fight to the bitter end ... so that the Democratic Party can stay in power."

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