[QODLink]
Asia-Pacific
Japan PM 'sorry' for poll loss
Naoto Kan apologises for poor showing in parliamentary polls but vows a fresh start.
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2010 10:12 GMT
Naoto Kan faces an uphill task of getting opposition support and a challenge from within his party [AFP]

Japan's prime minister has apologised for his party's poor showing in Sunday's elections which seem set to strip it of its slim majority in the upper house of parliament.

According to Japanese media reports, Naoto Kan's Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won just 44 of the contested seats, well short of his stated goal of 54, while the DPJ's coalition partner the People's New Party got none.

Official results from the poll are due out later on Monday.

The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is thought to have won 51 seats.

The result does not directly affect the DPJ's grip on power, because of its majority in the more powerful lower house.

But it does mean that the party will need to seek new partners to control the upper chamber, which can block legislation, as they struggle to push through economic reforms and rein in Japan's huge public debt.

The results also leave Kan vulnerable to an internal challenge at a party leadership vote in September, though he said on Monday he wanted to stay in his job.

"I want to accept the election results sincerely and continue responsible policies with the feeling that this is a new start line," he said.

Failure to explain

Kan said that he felt responsible for failing to fully explain his proposal for a raise in sales tax to help pay off the debt, but said he would continue to call for multi-party talks on the topic.

Kan, who took office just a month ago, is already the country's fifth prime minister in three years.

The DPJ won power in a historic landslide just last year, ousting the long-dominant conservative LDP with promises to cut waste and focus spending on consumers.

Divya Gopalan reports from Tokyo on public reaction to the electoral setback for the DPJ

But public backing nosedived due to indecisive leadership and broken election promises over the relocation of a US airbase.

Support for the DPJ briefly rebounded when Kan took office in early June, but tumbled quickly again after he floated the idea of raising the sales tax from five to ten per cent.

Analysts have said that while many voters accept the need for an eventual sales tax rise, given a public debt already about twice the size of Japan's $5 trillion economy, the DPJ failed to convince voters they had a coherent plan to cure the country's economic ills.

Kan said his ruling party will ask opposition parties to co-operate on a policy-by-policy basis rather than invite them into a formal coalition.

The loss of its narrow upper house majority means that Kan will have a tougher time passing the fiscal reforms he says are needed.

Unmet promises

Nabe Watanabe, a political analyst and senior fellow at the Tokyo Foundation, a policy think-tank, said the ruling party had failed to deliver reform as promised.

"The people's expectation of DPJ was reform and unfortunately the DPJ failed to show their message clearly," he told Al Jazeera.

"Also, the people are somehow frustrated with the raising of consumption taxes without streamlining government.

"I think the way the prime minister can survive is very limited but he could.

"DPJ has a majority in the lower house, so if it finds a good partner on issue by issue - for example, the raising of consumption taxes, reduction of government deficit or [limiting the] influence of bureaucrats - that agenda could be shared by a newly emerging small but strong party."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
UNHCR says hundreds of people trapped in Yaloke town risk death if they are not evacuated to safety urgently.
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Featured
Long-standing dispute over Christian use of the word 'Allah' raises concerns about a very un-Merry Christmas.
The threat posed by ISIL has prompted thousands of young Kurds to join the PKK.
Baja California - with its own grim history of disappeared people - finds a voice in the fight against violence.
Russian feminist rockers fight system holding 700,000 - the world's largest per capita prison population after the US.
Weeks of growing protests against Muslims continue in Dresden with 15,000 hitting the streets last Monday.