Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A leading figure in the Democratic Party of Japan, Satsuki Eda, is the new speaker of the House of Councillors, the upper house in the Japanese Diet (parliament). This is the first time in more than 50 years that an opposition leader holds the post which until now had been a prerogative of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), currently led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The move follows the LDP's crushing defeat in July's upper house elections where it lost its majority.
Since the polls, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has faced calls for his resignation, but says he intends to remain in office. He has however pledged a cabinet reshuffle, which is expected to take place next month.
The “make-up of the upper house has drastically changed after the upper house elections and we are facing a political situation we have never faced before,” said Mr Eda, the 66-year-old new speaker (see photo).
Some analysts believe the new situation could lead to political deadlock.
The ruling coalition still controls the more powerful lower house, but the opposition could now block bills in the upper house, forcing the spotlight on potentially controversial issues.
One such issue is Japanese maritime support for US-led forces in Afghanistan which the DPJ opposes.
Prime Minister Abe acknowledged he had a problem, but said that he “will strive to pass the laws in order to meet the expectations of the international community and contribute to it;” for this reason, he will “discuss this thoroughly with people of the Democratic Party and seek their cooperation.”
Recent polls have indicated further falls in support for Mr Abe, who took office in September 2006.
A survey conducted by the Mainichi newspaper on August 4 and 5 showed support for him at 22 per cent.