Voting got under way Sunday in 960 local elections across Japan in what is being seen as a test of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policies to revive flagging regional economies.
Ten gubernatorial elections will be held in Hokkaido, Kanagawa, Fukui, Mie, Nara, Tottori, Shimane, Tokushima, Fukuoka and Oita prefectures. In many races, the election will pit incumbents or challengers backed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) against opponents supported by the main opposition Democratic party of Japan.
The other elections are for mayors and municipal assemblies in 41 prefectures. In 501 municipal contests, incumbents ran unopposed.
Last month, Abe promised to lift Japan out of "a period of darkness" if his ruling Liberal Democratic Party does well in the local elections.
The LDP enjoys wide popular support in regional areas because the opposition bloc remains divided into small groupings.
Since returning to power over two years ago, Abe has issued a series of big-spending stimulus programs to boost the economy, assisted by aggressive monetary easing by the Bank of Japan.
Big businesses and urban areas, like Tokyo, are seen to have benefited from Abe's programs, dubbed "Abenomics", while rural economies have remained slow.
Polls close at 8 p.m.© Japan Today