Voters in Japan headed to the polls on Sunday to elect a new lower house of the national parliament where Prime Minister Fumio Kishida seeks to maintain his party’s majority.
Kishida became party leader and prime minister after Yoshihide Suga resigned just one year into the job.
The new government will face the task of steering the world’s third-largest economy battered by the pandemic, tackle a fast-aging and dwindling population and security challenges from China and North Korea.
The election is a test for the new premier who took over as the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party a month ago.
The LDP currently holds 276 seats, but opinion polls show it may be on the brink of losing its sole majority in the lower house for the first time since 2009.
Kishida is expected to remain prime minister, observers say the ruling party will likely lose seats and may have trouble retaining its commanding majority.
The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the biggest opposition group, is expected to gain seats but will be nowhere close to toppling Kishida’s coalition.
There has been a major public discontent over the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Japan initially lagged behind other developed nations in the vaccination drive. But it soon caught up and now more than 70% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Naoki Okura, a doctor, after voting in Tokyo said, It’s hard to say the pandemic is completely snuffed out and society is stable, so we shouldn’t have any big changes in coronavirus policy” .