Abe's LDP set to become largest party in Tokyo assembly

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party is set to become the biggest force in the 127-seat Tokyo metropolitan assembly after Sunday's election, projections by Kyodo News showed.

The LDP will likely secure an overall majority with its coalition partner the New Komeito Party, an outcome that will likely bode well for the ruling bloc heading into the crucial upper house election next month.

As of 10 p.m., the LDP is likely to have won at least 41 seats and New Komeito 17, en route to securing the 64 necessary to secure a majority in the assembly, according to the projections and exit polls by Kyodo News.

For the Democratic Party of Japan, however, the election will likely prove a disappointment as the party was projected to have won five seats and its final total is certain to fall well below the 43 it currently holds.

The main focus of the election was on how voters would evaluate "Abenomics," which combines massive fiscal stimulus, aggressive monetary easing and a growth strategy, and is aimed at pulling the world's third largest economy out of decades of deflation.

Abe has described the assembly election as a battle to be won "at any cost" as the outcome will set the tone for the House of Councillors election next month, when voters are expected to deliver a verdict on his handling of the seven-month-old government.

The expected results also reflect how the DPJ has lost its strength since 2009, when the party became the biggest force following the previous assembly election, and later ousted the LDP from power at the national level.

The DPJ had 43 seats in the assembly, the LDP 39, New Komeito 23, and the Japanese Communist Party eight, before Sunday's race.

The Japan Restoration Party, taking part in the assembly race for the first time, has faced a tough battle and co-leader Toru Hashimoto has indicated he may step down depending on the outcome.

Three metropolitan assembly members had joined the Japan Restoration Party after the 2009 election.

The Osaka mayor apologized last week to candidates running on the party's ticket after facing a barrage of criticism for his recent remarks about Japan's wartime military brothels.

Voter turnout stood at 32.48 percent as of 7:30 p.m., down from 42.77 percent in the previous election in 2009. Turnout in the previous election reached 54.49 percent.

During campaigning, candidates focused on the challenges facing Tokyo such as disaster prevention and steps to address its aging population.

But debate on issues directly affecting the lives of people in Tokyo took a backseat at times as political parties attempted to inject momentum into their campaigns for the upper house election set for July 21.