So far, 922 people have said they will run in the upcoming Lower House general election in which all 480 seats will be up for grabs.
The Liberal Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Japan will face off in 258 of the 300 single-seat districts across Japan, but neither is likely to win the 241 seats needed for a majority and the winner will have to build a coalition to hold power.
Analysts say the focus will be on which of the two major parties will take the largest share of seats in the first general election since Sept. 11, 2005.
The election, which must be held by the fall, is widely expected to boil down to whom the voters trust with the government — Prime Minister Taro Aso’s LDP or Yukio Hatoyama’s DPJ.
Aso is expected to dissolve the Lower House during the current Diet session, which has been extended to run until July 28.
Of the 922 expected candidates — of whom 138 are women — 834 are planning to run in the 300 single-seat districts. The other 180 seats will be filled through the proportional-representation system.
The LDP is poised to field 295 contenders in single-seat districts, including those where an officially backed candidate has not yet been named.
The DPJ has come up with 264 aspirants but has yet to announce its candidates for the Tokyo No. 12 district, where the leader of New Komeito, the LDP’s ruling coalition partner, will run, and the No. 8 district in Hyogo Prefecture.
In about 30 single-seat districts in which the DPJ will not field a candidate, the party will promote teaming up with other opposition forces.
The LDP currently has an overwhelming 303 seats in the Lower House, followed by the DPJ with 111, New Komeito with 31, the Japanese Communist Party with nine, the Social Democratic Party with seven and Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party) with five. The four-year terms of all Lower House members expire Sept. 10.
On the New Komeito ticket, eight candidates are planning to run in single-seat districts. Among small opposition parties, the JCP plans to run 149 candidates, the SDP 31 and Kokumin Shinto 10.
One candidate each is expected to run from New Party Nippon, whose only current Diet member is in the Upper House, and the Japan Renaissance Party, which was established last August and has one member in the Lower House.
Twenty-nine people will be running from various other tiny parties and 46 as independents.
For the 180 proportional-representation seats, both New Komeito and the JCP will field candidates separately from single-seat districts for all 11 of the regional blocks, and the SDP and Kokumin Shinto for five blocks each.
Although candidates can run under both categories, the DPJ does not plan to allow members who do not represent a single-seat district to rank high on its proportional-representation lists.
The LDP also plans to narrow down such candidates on its lists but must keep the system in five districts with the old rule that, named after a system in Costa Rica, two LDP candidates — mostly incumbents — bid in turn in a single-seat district and on a proportional-representation list, party officials said.
The party ballooned in the 2005 campaign thanks to the election strategy of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and now it has some first-term members unable to find a district to run in this election.
Taizo Sugimura, one of the LDP incumbents first elected four years ago and who was considering running as an independent because the party has not endorsed him, said Thursday he has decided not to seek a seat in the next election.
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