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Economic Downturn Forced Japan Election, Says Analyst

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso has dissolved parliament's lower house and called for national elections 30 August.

In televised remarks Tuesday, the prime minister, who took office just last September, apologized for his failings and admitted that his party's internal turmoil had contributed to recent local election losses.

“Public opinion polls have not been kind to the LDP [ruling Liberal Democratic Party], or the last three prime ministers,” said Charles Morrison, president of the East-West Center in Hawaii.

“The LDP under former Prime Minister [Junichiro] Koizumi was quite popular until 2005, but it’s had lackluster leadership and, of course, the economic crisis has not helped.”

Morrison said Japan has been hard hit by the global economic crisis because its export sales have been badly hurt by the downturn, although he expects a modest improvement next year.

Morrison said he does not expect a clear cut winner in next month’s election, given, in his view, the relative unpopularity of both the LDP and the opposition Democratic Party. And, he said, while the LDP has been the dominant party in Japan for more than 50 years, any change would not be significant.

"The opposition party is a split off from the LDP. There could be some realignment of parties, but it’s the same basic (political) elite that has governed Japan for some time," he said.