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    » 07/12/2010, 00.00

    JAPAN

    Democratic Party of Japan loses big in yesterday’s elections



    The governing party loses its majority in the upper house of parliament. Now it must seek new partners to govern. Prime minister Kan refuses to resign, insists on the need for a consumption tax. Experts point to various scenarios.
    Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has suffered a blow in mid-term elections for the upper house of parliament yesterday. Despite the rebuke, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he plans to stay in office and complete financial reform.

    Projections indicate that the DPJ will take 44 of the 121seats (half of the upper house) up for re-election. With the 62, it already holds from the other half, it no longer has a majority in the chamber. Its main coalition partner, the People's New Party, did not win any seats.

    The poll was seen by many as a referendum on the DPJ administration after it came to power in August 2009, breaking the almost 50-year monopoly of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

    Since summer last year, the DPJ lost much of the support it took from the LDP.

    However, Prime Minister Kan is not planning to resign. He replaced his DPJ predecessor, Yukio Hatoyama, who was brought down by scandals involving members of his cabinet and the controversy over the US base on Okinawa.

    Now he will have to find new allies to govern even if he has a majority in the lower house, the more powerful of the two chambers that constitute Japan’s parliament.

    During the election campaign, Kan announced a programme of deep and clearly defined, albeit unpopular economic reforms, including doubling the sales tax to 10 per cent.

    Last Friday, he also said that Japan has to take drastic measures to avoid a collapse of its banking system, especially since “Japan's economy is 20 to 30 times bigger than that of Greece and its public debt is huge, so no country in the world could rescue Japan," Mr Kan said.

    Today, whilst acknowledging the defeat, he blamed himself for failing to explain his tax hike plan. However, the Nikkei newspaper wrote today many voters agree that a consumption tax is inevitable to fund social assistance. The DPJ election defeat should not lead the government to change strategy on tax policy.

    The election has shown how much the country lacks in terms of leadership. Mr Kan himself is the fifth prime minister in four years.  

    Cabinet secretary Yoshito Sengoku said in a press conference that the prime minister would try to get the support of all other parties.

    Experts agree that Japan cannot afford a weak government at a time when important reforms are needed. However, uncertainty remains dominant.

    One possibility being explored is the entry of smaller parties into the coalition government. However, Yoshimi Watanabe, leader of the Your Party that had a good result in yesterday’s election, said he would not provide support for the current government.

    Another possibility explored by some analysts is the formation of a ‘grand coalition’ between the two largest parties, something possible because many MPs from both sides of the house share the same views on a number of issues.

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    30/07/2007 JAPAN
    Election defeat marks Abe’s political future
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    07/08/2007 JAPAN
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    Satsuki Eda becomes speaker of the House of Councillors following the defeat of the ruling party in recent elections. Analysts warn about a possible political deadlock.

    26/07/2007 JAPAN
    Opinion polls predict Abe’s defeat on July 29, but many voters still undecided
    The governing coalition appears far short of the number of seats needed to retain control of the upper house. Many voters are still undecided. Abe announces he won’t quit even if he loses because he has a majority in the lower house, but a resounding defeat might lose him smaller parties’ support and weaken the yen.

    02/09/2009 JAPAN
    Japan’s election, a revolution by young “assassins”
    The Democratic Party took more than 60 per cent of the seats in the Lower House. It won by going after the vote of young people and women who are now stepping in lieu of the old “barons” of traditional politics. For the Liberal Democrats, it is time for change as Taro Aso shows his greatness in defeat. The new party plans focus on people and fraternity, but some promises will be hard to keep because of the economic crisis.

    02/09/2008 JAPAN
    Japan’s current political crisis likely to end in a government of transition
    People in the street react negatively to PM Fukuda’s sudden resignation. Premier quit because of deadlock in parliament and a drop in popularity as New Komeito plays maverick role.



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