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Japan opposition heading for landslide win

TOKYO, Aug 28 – Japan’s opposition has increased its lead over Prime Minister Taro Aso’s long-ruling party, opinion polls showed on Friday, suggesting it is on course for a landslide win in this weekend’s election.

The Democratic Party of Japan, seeking to end half a century of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party, could win more than 300 seats in the 480-seat lower house in Sunday’s election, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.

The daily, which questioned more than 85,000 voters in a telephone poll from Tuesday to Thursday, said there was a "strong likelihood of a change of government," with the LDP unable to stop the "DPJ’s overwhelming momentum."

The advance of the centre-left DPJ, led by Yukio Hatoyama, reflects voters’ dissatisfaction with the LDP and the leadership of gaffe-prone Aso amid tough economic times.

New data on Friday showed that employment had risen to a post-war high of 5.7 percent in July, in the latest set of bleak numbers for the government.

Reflecting high public interest in the landmark poll, more than three million voters had cast early ballots by the end of Sunday, a week before the poll, according to the latest figures by the internal affairs ministry.

The number was up 52 percent from the same period in the last general election in 2005, in which the ruling party scored a historic win under popular premier Junichiro Koizumi with high voter turnout of 67.5 percent.

Other polls on Friday also showed the DPJ strongly ahead.

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Polling by Kyodo news agency on Wednesday and Thursday found that 35.9 percent of respondents would give their votes to the DPJ in the proportional representation part of the vote, compared with 17.9 percent for the LDP.

In the vote for individual candidates, 36 percent said they would vote for Democratic Party candidates and 22.6 percent for Liberal Democrat candidates.

Of those polled, 30.9 percent were undecided on which party to vote for in the proportional representation part of the election.

The poll was based on 1,229 responses.

A survey of 1,026 voters by the Mainichi Shimbun on Wednesday and Thursday found 44 percent of people polled would vote for the main opposition in proportional representation, up three points from a survey a week ago.

The ratio of respondents who said they would vote for the LDP stayed unchanged at 21 percent.

When asked which party they support in general, 39 percent said they approve of the DPJ, up from 36 percent in July and a record high in Mainichi polls, against 20 percent for the LDP.

The survey also found 31 percent of voters believe Hatoyama is most fit for the prime minister’s job, compared with 15 percent for Aso.

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