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Japanese PM Sets Date for New Elections


Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso says he will dissolve the Lower House of the parliament next week and call an election on August 30. Mr. Aso's Liberal Democratic Party suffered major losses Sunday in the Tokyo city election.

The final tally in Japan's largest local election set the stage for the national political fight. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan won Tokyo's city wide election in a landslide, with 54 seats. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party won just 38 and lost 10.

As results came in Sunday, the LDP leader in Tokyo Nobuteru Ishihara, had a glum assessment. He says a majority in his party has lost the trust of the people. He thinks this will have a big impact on the general election.

The poor showing added to mounting pressure for Prime Minister Taro Aso to dissolve the Lower House of the parliament and call a general election.

Yukio Hatoyama leads the Democratic Party of Japan. Hatoyama called on Mr. Aso to proceed quickly, keeping in mind the voice of every voter.

Hours later, the prime minister set the August 30 date.

Parties now have more than a month to make their case to voters, but the LDP may be fighting a losing battle. The latest polls conducted by Japan's top newspapers show a majority support a DPJ-led government, while approval ratings for Mr. Aso continue to drop. He is so unpopular some in his party want to oust him as leader before the August election.

An LDP loss in the general election would interrupt and possibly end its half century of dominance in Japanese politics. Since the early 1950s, only three prime ministers have come from opposition parties, all leading brief coalition governments in the mid 1990s.

Chuo University Professor Stephen Reed says the DPJ is a stronger party than it was a decade ago.

"They have been thinking about this since 1996, they have been talking amongst themselves about what it is they are going to do," he said. "They have bigger things on their agenda."

The LDP's popularity has fallen sharply in the past few years as it struggled with a weak economy and the aftermath of several corruption scandals. Mr. Aso is the third prime minister to serve since 2006 - none has lasted more than a year.

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