A man casts his vote for the house of representatives election at a polling station in Tokyo, Japan, on Aug. 30, 2009. Voting officially began Sunday morning for a general election in which Japan may see a change of power for only the second time since 1955.
Japanese voters began voting early Sunday for a lower house generation in which the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) looks set to end more than 50 years of almost unbroken rule by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) .
Most of the nearly 51,000 polling stations nationwide opened at 7 a.m. (2200 GMT Saturday) and are to close at 8 p.m. Sunday (1100 GMT Sunday). Voters formed long queues even before the polling booths opened, waiting to cast their ballots.
The results of the general election, the first in four years, are expected to be known by early Monday. Due to great voter enthusiasm, turnout could be higher than the previous general election, in which it reached 67.51 percent.
The focus of the election is whether the DPJ, led by Yukio Hatoyama, can achieve a landslide victory over the ruling LDP, as predicted by media polls.
The LDP has dominated Japan's politics for more than half a century since its establishment in 1955, except for the nearly 11 months in 1993-94 when it fell out of power. Analysts say that a DPJ victory could usher in a two-party system following more than 50 years of virtually one-party rule.
Economy has been the foremost subject the two blocs debated on as Japan is undergoing one of its worst post-war slowdowns and the jobless rate hit a record 5.7 percent in July and its public debt has amounted to an estimated 200 percent of its GDP, the highest among industrialized nations.
Prime Minister Taro Aso, who doubles as the LDP chief, and Hatoyama made their final appeals to the public late Saturday.
Standing outside the east exit of JR Ikebukuro Station, Aso spoke of his party's focus on the economy.
"We're only partway through our economic stimulus measures," said Aso.
"Please allow the LDP-New Komeito coalition to finish stimulating the economy. I'll show you that we can do a thorough job," he said.
Outside the west exit of the same station, Hatoyama, for his part, said: "We need to be brave to redraw history...This is the first election in Japan in which it will be possible to change the administration.
"We vow to work as if our lives depend on it to bring about the birth (of a DPJ-led administration)," he said.