READY FOR POWER: Yukio Hatoyama, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), speaks to the media in Tokyo on August 31, after DPJ won a landslide victory in Japan's lower house elections (REN ZHENGLAI)
Japan's 45th general election of its lower house of parliament was held as scheduled on August 30. As the results came out the next day, opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) won a landslide victory, claiming 308 out of the total 480 seats. Before the election, the party only had 113 seats in the House of Representatives.
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), on the other hand, got only 119 seats, a sharp reduction of 177 seats from what it possessed before the election.
It was also the first time in Japanese post-World War II history that a single opposition party won half of the lower house seats.
DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama soon declared victory, announcing he was ready to assume power. Meanwhile, LDP leader and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso conceded defeat, and declared his intention to resign.
ADMITTING FAILURE: Taro Aso, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and current Japanese Prime Minister, declares resignation as LDP leader on August 31 at the LDP headquarters in Tokyo (REN ZHENGLAI)
Japanese voters showed record-breaking interest in the election, with more than 72 million people participating in the vote. Voter turnout hit record highs of 69.28 percent in single-seat districts and of 69.27 percent in proportional representation segments, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
Observers believe that the election results reflect the Japanese general public's thirst for change.
Opportunities and risks
There are deep-seated reasons for the decline of the LDP, which had dominated Japan's political stage for more than half a century. Facing a devastating financial crisis, the LDP turned to Keynesianism and issued gigantic government-led stimulus packages.
But the result was not as good as expected: The country's economy kept sliding and deflation pricked up, while unemployment deteriorated, and people's living conditions fell. In the end, economic recovery seemed very elusive.
The LDP's malfunctioning economic policy turned the party's advantage into a disadvantage, sparking strong doubt over its administrative abilities.
Due to its unchallenged position in Japan's political arena, the LDP has turned into a prisoner of its own device.
Family politics, collusion within business circles, clique in-fighting and general corruption had been associated with the LDP. And the Japanese people finally registered their disgust at the polls.
Even the LDP's traditional supporters chose to distance themselves from the party. They had plenty of inspiration. Western countries recently had opened up to change and reformation. Barack Obama, for one, used the mantra of "Change We Can Believe in," to become the 44th president of the United States.
Encouraged by the Obama phenomenon, Japan, a believer in the United States, finally ousted the LDP. A poll indicated that nearly one third of former LDP supporters switched votes in the election.
The political map of Japan is now radically different, with the DPJ holding a stable majority in the lower house. The party will dominate all the policy committees there. Plus, it now has an advantage in the upper house.
Presently, the DPJ is as powerful as the LDP when it was in its prime. And there can be no doubt that the DPJ is qualified to organize its own cabinet.
However, judging by party leader Hatoyama's style, it is also quite possible the party might cooperate with smaller parties and morph into coalition government to cement its base.
The DPJ's victory brought the party power, but also hidden dangers as well.
Currently, members of the party are from different camps, and are united under a larger banner—breaking down the LDP. It is a big task for the DPJ to organize different groups' political opinions and interests with the magic wand of power.