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Historic victory for DPJ in Japan's election

Posted by: Ian Rowley on August 30, 2009

After 54 years of almost unbroken rule Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party government has been expelled from office. At 10:21 pm local time, national broadcaster NHK announced that the opposition Democratic Party of Japan had won a decisive 241 Lower House seats. When votes for all 480 seats are counted, NHK projects that the DPJ will go on to win over 300 seats, marking a huge swing against the LDP. “We have to make this a victory for the people. We have to respond to the needs of the people.” DPJ chief Yukio Hatoyama, who will become Japan’s new Prime Minister, said in a televised interview.

Incumbent Prime Minister Taro Aso conceded defeat a few minutes earlier. “The result of this election is very severe. We have to accept the result and think clearly [about where we go] from here,” he said. ”People showed their disappointment with the LDP.” After ruling Japan uninterrupted since 1955, save a ten-month hiatus in the 1990s, the LDP is expected to be left with just 100 representatives in the Lower House.

Aso, at least won his seat. Other party bigwigs including former Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu and current and former Finance Ministers Kaoru Yosano and Shoichi Nakagawa—best known outside Japan for a slurring appearance at a G8 meeting earlier this year—are among the senior LDP casualties.

The victory for the DPJ, a party formed only 11 years ago, confirmed the LDP’s worst fears. Last week, former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who didn’t stand for reelection, seemed to accept that defeat to the DPJ was inevitable. “Unless something big happens, it’s possible that we’ll see a change in government,” he said. And on Aug. 25, Finance Minister Yosano, perhaps sensing his impending defeat, added another despondent voice. “The Democratic Party of Japan is engulfing Tokyo like a massive wave,” he said at a press conference in Tokyo. The big question now is whether the DPJ can deliver the reform and economic recovery Japan so badly needs.

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