FACTBOX-Parties contesting Japan's Dec 16 election

Dec 4 (Reuters) - Japan holds an election for parliament's

lower house on Dec. 16, with opinion polls suggesting that the

long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will return to

power after three years in opposition.

Below are some key facts about Japan's political parties.

(For a graphic charting voter preferences among major

parties, click on: http://link.reuters.com/xyc34t)

DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF JAPAN (DPJ)

Established: 1998

Website: http://www.dpj.or.jp/english/

2009 lower house election result: 308 out of 480 seats

Formed in a merger of several opposition parties, the DPJ

swept to power in 2009 to end more than half a century of almost

unbroken Liberal Democratic Party rule. It campaigned on a

promise to break up the "iron triangle" between the powerful

bureaucracy, business and LDP lawmakers, pay heed to consumers'

interests and put elected officials in charge of policy.

Leader Yoshihiko Noda, 55, is already Japan's sixth prime

minister since 2006 and the third from the DPJ. Noda, a former

finance minister, made raising the sales tax his top goal even

though it was not part of the DPJ's 2009 campaign platform.

The Democrats' support slumped over what voters saw as

broken promises, a confused response to last year's tsunami and

nuclear crisis and Noda's embrace of unpopular causes such as

the tax hike and the restart of nuclear reactors.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF JAPAN (LDP)

Established: 1955

Website:http://www.jimin.jp/english/

2009 election result: 119 seats

Until the 2009 election, the party, which has nurtured close

ties with business and the bureaucracy, has been in power alone

or in coalitions almost non-stop since its founding in 1955.

Its leader, Shinzo Abe, 58, prime minister in 2006-2007, has

said he would not yield in a territorial row with China but

would try to mend economic ties with Japan's giant neighbour.

Abe has also said he would increase defence spending if needed.

Abe has piled pressure on the central bank to ease monetary

policy further and adopt a 2 percent inflation target and might

delay the sales tax rise if deflation persists. The party

favours a key role for nuclear power in Japan's energy mix

despite a dramatic shift in public opinion in favour of phasing

out atomic energy after the Fukushima crisis.

JAPAN RESTORATION PARTY

Established: 2012

Website: http://j-ishin.jp/(Japanese only)

Popular Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, 43, formally launched

the right-leaning party in September to woo voters fed up with

the two main parties.

His core policies include shrinking the role of the central

government, more market competition and cuts in corporate and

income taxes.

Last month, the party merged with a few conservative

lawmakers led by former nationalist Tokyo Governor Shintaro

Ishihara, 80, in a bid to build an influential "third force".

The party wants to boost defence spending and maritime

surveillance in response to a territorial row with China.

It has flip-flopped on nuclear power after merging with

Ishihara's pro-atomic group, and confusion persists.

NEW KOMEITO

Established: 1998

Website: http://www.komei.or.jp/en/

2009 result: 21 seats

The party founded by members of a Buddhist sect, the Soka

Gakkai, is a former LDP ally and expected to be in any coalition

led by the larger conservative party.

It tends to focus on economic policies for the less well off

and is more moderate on security issues than the LDP.

TOMORROW PARTY OF JAPAN

Established: 2012

Website: http://www.nippon-mirai.jp/ (Japanese only)

Yukiko Kada, governor of the western Japanese prefecture of

Shiga and former environmental sociology professor, launched the

party just days before the official campaign kicked off to bring

together anti-nuclear forces.

Most candidates hail from a short-lived party founded by

former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa, 70, which opposes tax increases,

nuclear power and participation in a U.S.-led trade pact, the

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Ozawa has been nicknamed the

"Destroyer" for his role in creating and then breaking up

parties he has formed since he left the LDP in 1993.

Ozawa's group had 48 seats in the lower house before its

dissolution, making it the third-largest in the chamber.

Kada aims to shut down all nuclear reactors within 10 years,

much sooner than the DPJ's goal to phase out nuclear power by

the 2030s, and wants to improve conditions for working women to

boost the birth rate and stimulate economic growth.

YOUR PARTY

Established: 2009

Website: http://www.your-party.jp/ (Japanese only)

2009 election result: five seats

Formed by former LDP lawmaker Yoshimi Watanabe shortly

before the 2009 polls, the party calls for Japan's participation

in the TPP, advocates an early exit from nuclear power and would

suspend the planned rise in the sales tax. It also favours

aggressive monetary stimulus.

The spiky-haired Watanabe has cultivated ties with Hashimoto

and lost some members to his group.

(Compiled by Kaori Kaneko, Tetsushi Kajimoto, Kiyoshi Takenaka

and Antoni Slodkowski; Editing by Ken Wills)

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