Japan's Opposition Wins Election in Landslide

30 August 2009

Japanese voters have resoundingly rejected the party that has set the country's policy agendas for more than half a century. The rise of a center-left party promising to soothe the pain of globalization is being seen as a major break with business as usual.

As official results continued to solidify in Japan, media exit polls made it clear the party is over for those who currently run the country.

Cheers of delight went up at the headquarters of candidates for the Democratic Party of Japan, as broadcasters predicted a landslide victory over the Liberal Democratic Party.

A poster of Yukio Hatoyama, leader of Japan's main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, Tokyo, Sunday, 30 Aug. 2009
A poster of Yukio Hatoyama, leader of Japan's main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, Tokyo, Sunday, 30 Aug. 2009
The DPJ appeared set to gain more 300 out of 480 lower house seats in play. That result is consistent with months of expectations that LDP Prime Minister Taro Aso and his party would be defeated the DPJ and its leader - Japan's presumed next prime minister -Yukio Hatoyama.

Hatoyama expresses his gratitude, saying it was the people's strong desire for change that brought about this result. He says the vote clearly reflects the deep public desire to shift the country's balance of power.

The LDP has controlled Japan's legislature almost without interruption for the past 55 years. But many voters blame the party for Japan's worst period of recession since World War Two. The DPJ has campaigned almost exclusively on bread-and-butter economic issues, appealing to voters who feel the LDP has lost touch with average families.

In a sentiment shared by many here, this Japanese voter says "I am not a big fan of the Democratic Party - but this time, why not?"

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso struck a note of deep humility in accepting his party's defeat.

He says the election result is regrettable, but that he will take the people's voice seriously. In a signal he will likely resign soon, he says he blames the defeat on his own failure, and will accept personal responsibility.

Hatoyama now inherits the conundrum of Japan's struggling economy - ballooning debt, sputtering growth, and a rapidly aging population.

On foreign policy, the DPJ has signaled closer regional integration with East Asian nations, particularly neighboring China. Hatoyama has vowed to "re-examine" Tokyo's relationship with the United States - but says the U.S.-Japan alliance will still be a cornerstone of the country's security.