Japan election: Voting in Shinzo Abe’s snap poll

Millions of Japanese people are voting in a snap election called by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to boost support for his economic reforms.

Voters will be choosing who sits in the 475-seat lower house of Japan’s parliament, the Diet.

Recent surveys show Mr Abe’s coalition is likely to win a majority, even though his popularity has dipped.

Mr Abe was elected in 2012 and has tried to revive the economy by raising public spending and printing money.

After an initial burst of growth, Japan slipped back into recession in the second half of this year.

Japan is the third-largest economy in the world, according to the World Bank, but it has struggled in recent years.

However, Mr Abe has insisted that his policies, known as “Abenomics”, can get Japan back on track.

“I promise to make Japan a country that can shine again at the centre of the world,” he said in a recent campaign speech.

He has vowed to help more Japanese women enter and remain in employment by tightening anti-discrimination laws and setting employment targets.

He has also promised to amend the law to allow the Japanese military to engage in collective self-defence alongside allies who are threatened.

Economists say an increase in sales tax from 5% to 8% in April knocked consumer spending and helped to halt growth.

The tax increase was legislated by the previous government in 2012 to curb Japan’s huge public debt, which is the highest among developed nations.

Mr Abe called the election to seek a mandate to delay a second increase in the tax to 10%, scheduled for 2015.

Several surveys in recent weeks have pointed to a win for Mr Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.

Observers say this is partly due to the lack of a real political alternative, with the opposition in disarray.

The Banri Kaieda-led opposition Democratic Party is expected to pick up a handful of seats, but not enough to affect the parliamentary balance.

A total of 1,191 candidates are competing for 475 seats