Official campaigning began Tuesday for Japan's Oct. 22 Lower House election, with the contest widely thought to be a three horse race between the ruling coalition headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and newly-formed opposition parties including Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike's Party of Hope.
Party candidates and independents are vying for the 465 seats in the lower house of Japan's bicameral parliament, and 289 lawmakers will be elected directly and 176 will be elected through a system of proportional representation.
Abe has said if his ruling coalition does not achieve the minimum majority needed in the election at a combined 233 seats, then he will step down as prime minister.
As with previous elections, the prime minister began his own campaign in Fukushima Prefecture, in a bid to draw attention to the government's recovery work since the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, which ravaged the region.
"Recovery is moving forward without a doubt," Abe was quoted as telling a crowd in the northeastern prefecture.
Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) along with its coalition Komeito ally are facing stiff opposition from the newly-formed Party of Hope headed by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.
Koike has said her party plans to wrestle power away from the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and has outlined in the election platform its pledges that distinguish it from the ruling bloc.