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Democratic Party wins landslide in legislative elections

Video by Fiona CAMERON

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-08-31

Japan's electorate has made history by voting out the conservative Liberal Democrat Party, giving the opposition Democratic Party of Japan an apparent landslide victory, according to media reports.

For only the second time in its postwar history, Japan’s voters tossed the Liberal Democratic Party out of power, handing a sweeping victory to the untested Democratic Party of Japan, according to media projections of the landmark Aug. 30 vote.

With official results expected later Monday, Japanese media projections gave the centre-left Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) 308 out of 480 seats in the powerful lower house in Sunday's poll. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is projected to take 119 seats, down from the 300 seats.

“It’s the first time in Japan that a party has won more than 300 seats in a single election,” said FRANCE 24’s Nathalie Tourret, reporting from Tokyo.

According to Tourret, the defeat of the LDP, which has ruled Japan for decades, opens “a new chapter of Japan’s political history”.

The LDP’s ally, the centre-right New Komeito Party, which is linked to a Japan’s largest lay Buddhist organization, also suffered a routing, according to Tourret.

While official results are yet to be released, embattled Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, whose gaffes and hapless leadership accelerated his party’s decline, announced Sunday night that he would step down as party chief.

Aso is expected to stay on as prime minister until his successor, very likely to be DPJ chief Yukio Hatoyama, is confirmed as prime minister when parliament meets in about two weeks.

At a news conference at his Tokyo home a day after the elections, Hatoyama acknowledged Sunday’s historic vote, but warned that there were challenges ahead. "It's taken a long time, but we have at last reached the starting line," he said. "This is by no means the destination. At long last we are able to move politics, to create a new kind of politics that will fulfill the expectations of the people."

Hatoyama is to set up a transition team to organise the change of government but has said he will not announce his cabinet until he is officially elected prime minister.

Buoyed by end of political uncertainty, yen rises

The apparently historic, landslide victory boosted the Japanese yen Monday as the end of political uncertainty sparked some short-term buying of yen based on hopes for change in an economy trapped in deflation and haunted by a weak growth outlook.

Attention is now expected to turn to the economy, with analysts monitoring whether Hatoyama is likely to deliver on his campaign promises to expand the welfare state and boost the world’s second-largest but lately sagging economy.

The scion of a well-known Japanese political family that has been compared to the Kennedys in the United States, Hatoyama has been touting a message of change along the lines of US President Barack Obama’s campaign.

A graduate of Stanford University in California, Hatoyama ran a popular campaign with his street rallies gathering masses of supporters.

In its editorial Monday, the Asahi Shimbun said the Democrats have no time to celebrate, as Hatoyama has numerous economic challenges to deal with in the days and months to come. The country’s oldest and second-most circulated newspaper has largely supported the DPJ during the campaign.

Date created : 2009-08-31