"All politics is local."

— former U.S. House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neill

"Local councilors, in practice, are accountable to nobody. Half of them are self-important busybodies on an ego trip and the other half are in it for what they can get out of it."

— Jim Hacker, minister for administrative affairs in BBC's TV comedy "Yes, Minister."

On April 12 and 26, voters around the country go to the polls to cast their ballots in a series of local elections that have been the focus of national attention for nearly a year. The results of these battles are highly likely to influence Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's domestic policy choices over the coming months.