The official campaign period for the June 25 Lower House election kicks off today with nearly 1,400 candidates vying for 480 seats nationwide.

The number of candidates is the second largest in the postwar period, with the number of women hitting at a record high of about 200.

Pundits say the election will be a test of the tripartite coalition government — the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and New Conservative Party — and are watching to see whether it will win enough seats to maintain effective rule.

The ruling camp is aiming to capture 254 seats, the amount it says it needs to keep an “absolute comfortable majority” in the chamber.

The Democratic Party of Japan, the nation’s largest opposition force, will be leading the opposition camp in a fresh offensive against Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, who has committed a series of verbal gaffes, including one in which he describes Japan as a “divine nation centering on the Emperor.”

It will be the second poll to be held under the recently revised election system, which combines single-seat constituencies with proportional representation.

But due to administrative reforms, the number of proportional representation seats up for grabs will be reduced to 180 instead of the previous 200.

The last Lower House election was held in October 1996.

Major parties were to announce their proportional representation candidates for 11 regional blocs.