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On election's eve, Japan's conservatives appear poised for dramatic comeback

If polls ahead of Sunday's vote are correct, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will take up the top slot again as leader of the LDP. His more hawkish tone on China has played well to an uneasy electorate.

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Japan’s political carousel is about to revolve yet again. By late on Sunday evening, the world’s third biggest economy is expected to install its seventh prime minister in six years, with polls predicting a dramatic comeback by the conservative opposition and its hawkish leader, Shinzo Abe.

If the predictions are correct, Japan’s political landscape will have a familiar feel to it. Mr. Abe, who was chosen to lead the Liberal Democratic Party [LDP] earlier this year, has already held the top job, for a year from September 2006.

Abe resigned amid scandal and ill health, and three years later, the LDP, which had monopolized power for more than 50 years, suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of the Democratic Party of Japan [DPJ] in an election that many predicted would signal a new direction for Japanese politics.

Now, on the eve of the election, the DPJ experiment lies in ruins. The prime minister,Yoshihiko  Noda, has been criticized for his handling of the economy, his “weak” response to Chinese provocations over the Senkaku islands – known as the Diaoyu in China – and his party’s failure to make good on campaign promises.

It marks a dramatic decline in the DPJ’s fortunes, coming so soon after it tapped into voter discontent with the status quo, pledging to curb the influence of faceless bureaucrats, shift money from wasteful public works to families and welfare, and lessen foreign-policy dependence on the US.

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