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Tough Battle Expected in Japan’s Lower House Elections

Posted September. 23, 2008 03:13,   


Tension is mounting in Japan’s political scene with Ichiro Ozawa’s selection as leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan Sunday and Taro Aso’s appointment as the head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party yesterday.

The two parties will compete in the general elections for Japan’s lower house early November.

▽ Snap election

Aso, who finally won his party’s top job on his fourth attempt, plans to hold a snap election as soon as possible.

In the election for his party’s leadership, he set his sights not on four other party candidates but on opposition party leader Ozawa. All his policies target victory in the upcoming lower house elections.

On the controversy over charging healthcare fees for people over age 75, Aso told a television program, “We don’t need to waste time fixing mistakes.”

He also said Japan needs three years for its economy to recover. His pledge to revive the Japanese economy through financial aid is also part of his strategy for the elections.

Opinion polls conducted by the leading Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun show 59 percent favor of Aso as prime minister and 28 percent Ozawa.

A series of setbacks, however, such as a scandal over imported rice that was meant only for industrial use and the government’s mishandling of pension records, could doom the LDP, which has held power for a long time.

▽ Ozawa urges change in government

Ozawa is appealing the public to change the government, claiming that another term of the coalition government of the LDP and the New Komeito Party will not prevent accidents and reduce tax waste.

In a speech after his election Sunday, he said, “The time has come for a duel. I will do my best in this fight even at the cost of my political career.”

The DPJ also announced its basic policy proposals for the new government to be specified as election promises.

The opposition party also announced measures such as narrowing the gap between the rich and poor and allowing people the free use of highways.

“We will come up with the necessary funds through an overhaul of the governing system,” it said.

The daily Tokyo Shimbun said, “The DPJ is planning to announce the Ozawa cabinet (shadow cabinet) when the Aso cabinet launches Wednesday.”

▽ Who will win the elections?

Japan’s lower house has 480 seats, and 241 are required to win a parliamentary majority. The LDP has 304 seats, its coalition partner NKP 31, the DPJ 113 and other parties and independents 32.

According to the polls conducted in late August and early this month, the LDP is expected win 193 to 207 seats, and 228 to 236 if those of NKP are added. The DPJ is forecast to win 209 to 234 seats, not enough to win an independent majority.