TOKYO: Japan on Tuesday kicked off its first official day of campaigning ahead of the Oct 31 general election, with a media poll showing support for the ruling party easing, in a blow for recently installed prime minister Fumio Kishida.

Kishida’s approval rating was at 46%, according to a poll by public broadcaster NHK conducted over the weekend, down three percentage points from a week prior.

The same poll showed a four percentage point increase in respondents who would “definitely go to the polls” versus a week ago, with 56% now saying they would cast their vote.

Key election issues will be revitalising the economy and the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kishida has promised he will spread the benefits of economic growth more widely, echoing some criticisms made of former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s economic plan, while prioritising the handling of the coronavirus response.

The opposition has criticised the ruling coalition for failing to improve the livelihoods of people and protect them from the pandemic.

In keeping with recent tradition for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Kishida’s first campaign speech will be at Fukushima prefecture, where a massive earthquake in 2011 caused a tsunami that crashed into the northeastern coast, triggering a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant.

Yukio Edano, the leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, will start his campaign in the conservative stronghold of Shimane prefecture in the southwest of Japan. — Reuters