Opposition DPJ wins Japan’s lower house election by landslide

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Opposition DPJ wins Japan’s lower house election by landslide

Japanese Prime Minister and ruling Liberal Democratic Party leader Taro Aso reacts at his party’s headquaters in Tokyo, Japan, on Aug. 30, 2009. Taro Aso admitted the failure during the the House of Representatives election on Sunday. (Xinhua/Qian Zheng)

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won Sunday’s general election by landslide victory, sweeping the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) out of almost unbroken power since 1955 to usher in a new era of Japanese politics.

The DPJ secured 308 seats in the powerful 480-seat House of Representatives. The LDP, by contrast, won only 119 seats and its smaller ally New Komeito won 21 seats. Three other parties in the opposition bloc, Social Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party and the People’s New Party won seven, nine and three seats respectively. according to broadcaster TV Asahi.

By winning the election, Yukio Hatoyama, 62-year-old head of DPJ and a political blueblood, will become Japan’s next Prime Minister.

Before the election, the LDP has 300 seats and its partner New Komeito has 31, compared with 115 held by the DPJ.

"A huge number of people have spoken through their votes, and they have said we must change the way that we do politics in Japan," Hatoyama said at a televised press conference late Sunday.

"Our aspiration (for a change in the government) has been materialized. I want to express my gratitude to voters, and Social Democratic Party and the People’s New Party"

"This is not just a victory for DPJ, but also for people facing partiality in the old bureaucratic-centered politics...We will humbly accept people’s voices on how we can improve politics to benefit people," he added.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso announced that he will quit as president of the LDP following the defeat in the general election.

"I believe the result is the judgment from the public and we have to accept," Aso said. "I have to accept it as my destiny."

"The LDP will have a fresh start under the new leader of the party," he said. "I will continue to work for the revival of the party."

An election to pick his successor as LDP chief will be held soon, he said.

On its agenda Monday, the Hatoyama is to discuss the possibility of forming a coalition government with members of its two opposition allies -- the Social Democratic Party and the People’s New Party.

"We will have to consult two leaders from the other parties,...we will work toward realizing that (forming coalition) from tomorrow," said Hatoyama at the press conference.

The DPJ is expected to launch an official transition team after deciding on key posts including chief Cabinet secretary and state minister in charge of overseeing its planned policymaking unit, the National Strategy Bureau, and then to complete appointments for the remaining Cabinet posts.

The official results of the general election, the first in four years, are expected to be known by early Monday.

The LDP has dominated Japan’s politics for more than half a century since its establishment, except for the nearly 11 months in 1993-94 when it fell out of power. Analysts say that a DPJ victory could usher in a two-party system following more than 50 years of virtually one-party rule.

Before the election, the LDP has 300 seats and its partner New Komeito has 31, compared with 115 held by the DPJ.

Hatoyama and his DPJ have campaigned on a promise of change and people-oriented politics against the business-friendly, bureaucrats-centered LDP.

In its manifesto, the DPJ pledges to cut wasteful spending, offer cash to households, boost domestic demand, raise the birth rate and keep Japan’s 5 percent consumption tax intact for the next four years, the duration of the term for new lower house lawmakers.

In foreign policy, it has signaled a solid but less subservient partnership with traditional ally the United States and a desire to boost its regional ties and promote a European Union-style Asian community and common currency.

Many young people were excited at the prospect of seeing the DPJ elected because of its policies concerning social welfare, and in particular, planned benefits to be given for young mothers. The party has promised to pay a child-rearing allowance for all children until they finish junior high school and to make high school tuition effectively free and universities more inclusive.

"If they manage to implement these policies, I will be much more comfortable having children," said Kaori Yoshida, a woman in her twenties.

But its big-budget policies, such as the monthly child allowance to families, have been criticized as lacking specifics about sources of funding.

Its rivals also blasted its inexperience in governance, especially during a period when Japan is yet to recover from its worst post-war slowdowns, with the jobless rate hitting a record 5.7 percent in July and its public debt amounting to an estimated 200 percent of its GDP, the highest among industrialized nations.

Aso asked voters to give his party more time to bring the economy back on track in his final plea to voters Saturday. "The economic measures we have taken since last year were not mistaken,... I will accomplish them completely," he said, referring to the economy has returned to growth in the second quarter, mostly due to the government’s massive stimulus plan and bounce back around the world.

However, his pledges still failed to win the hearts of voters, who believed a change in government is more likely to bring about real improvement for life.


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