The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), led by Yukio Hatoyama, is set to storm home with more than 300 seats in the 480-seat lower house of Parliament, according to opinion polls ahead of the election. Voters frustrated with the governments handling of Japans worst post-war recession were set to punish embattled prime minister Taro Aso and force the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) from office.
An opposition win would see the soft-spoken Hatoyama, 62, take over as prime minister, charged with steering the worlds number two economy through the global downturn as it struggles with record unemployment.
Hatoyama, a US-trained engineering scholar and scion of an old political dynasty, campaigned on a promise of change and people-centred politics against the business-friendly LDP, headed by fellow political blue blood Aso.
The DPJ already controls the upper house with the support of smaller parties, including the Social Democrats. A two-thirds majority in the lower house would give the party sufficient numbers to push through legislation. Voter turnout by the afternoon was marginally higher than in polls four years ago. Polling stations were to close at 8:00 pm (1630 IST), with media exit polls expected shortly afterwards.