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The leaders of Japan’s six major political parties traveled a distance of 10,500 km on average during the 12-day campaign for Sunday’s House of Representatives election.

The average distance that the party leaders covered traveling from one city to another over the period through Saturday, stumping for candidates backed by their respective parties, is further than the distance between Tokyo and London.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, also president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, covered a distance of 8,900 km in total — well below the average of the six leaders because he had to spend more time in Tokyo carrying out his public duties.

He nevertheless visited 16 prefectures and gave speeches at 70 locations, urging people to cast a vote of confidence in his economic reform initiatives.

His focus was on urban constituencies in Tokyo, Osaka, Aichi and Fukuoka prefectures, where LDP candidates faced the toughest competition.

“The LDP will become a party for reform, so that we can win support from people who are not affiliated with any political party,” Koizumi said in one of his campaign speeches, an attempt to reach out to “floating voters,” who often tend to favor the opposition.

Unaffiliated voters were also the main target of the largest opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

“To change politics, you have to change the government. Please let the DPJ take power,” DPJ chief Naoto Kan said in one of his speeches.

Kan was perhaps the busiest of the six party leaders. He gave 107 campaign speeches in 22 prefectures, traveling a distance of 12,900 km, sometimes aboard a small chartered jet.

During the tour, he was accompanied by a stylist who made sure that he looked at his best for the voters.

New Komeito chief Takenori Kanzaki was the busiest traveler — covering a distance of 15,900 km. He traveled literally the length and breadth of the country in a bid to boost votes for the party in all 11 regional proportional representation blocs.

He gave speeches three times in Saitama, Kanagawa and Hyogo prefectures, where the party’s candidates in single-seat constituencies face a close race.

Japanese Communist Party chief Shii Kazuo also concentrated on seeking support for the party in proportional representation votes, giving 36 speeches in major cities in 21 prefectures. Much of his campaign focused not only against the LDP-led coalition but also the DPJ, claiming that only the JCP can put an end to corrupt politics.

Some party leaders were also busy trying to secure their own re-election.

Social Democratic Party chief Takako Doi, facing a difficult campaign in her own electoral district in Hyogo Prefecture, gave roughly half of her 52 campaign speeches in her home constituency.

But she also traveled 11,200 km in 13 prefectures, calling for voters to support the SDP as the party is committed to opposing revisions to the pacifist Constitution.

Hiroshi Kumagai, head of the New Conservative Party, also had to concentrate on his own re-election campaign, spending much of his time in his home constituency in Shizuoka Prefecture. He covered some 3,700 km and on one day alone gave more than 20 speeches.

More absentee ballots

More than 1.6 million people had cast absentee ballots for Sunday’s general election as of Friday, a 30 percent increase from the last House of Representatives election in 2000, government officials said Saturday.

A total of 1,656,934 voters cast absentee ballots over an 11-day period from Oct. 28, up 29.09 percent from the same point in the 2000 election, the officials of the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry said. Absentee ballots were accepted through Saturday.

The absentee balloting figure is based on tallies from Japan’s 47 prefectures — full counts from 20 of them and samplings from the capitals of 27 prefectures.

At the current rate, the final number of absentee voters is estimated to total some 6.93 million, surpassing the record of 5,371,231 set in the previous election.

The rise in absentee votes is apparently due to the easing of conditions since the last general election as well as the public’s interest in this election.

The overall voting rate is also expected to be high this time.

The only municipality that saw fewer absentee voters was Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, where the number dropped by 5.63 percent from 2000, while the figures for the rest increased, according to the officials.

Of the prefectures that submitted complete tallies, Ishikawa had the biggest jump at 51.19 percent, followed by Akita at 37.87 percent and Fukui at 37.76 percent. Among the sample figures from prefectural capitals, the rate was the highest for Naha at 99.03 percent, ahead of Nagano at 70.78 percent and Yamagata at 57.86 percent.

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