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Campaigning officially begins for Aug 30 election

Date Posted: 2009-08-20

The election campaign for the August 30th House of Representatives is now officially under way.

The hotly contested campaign officially began Tuesday, with a different party potentially moving to power for the first time in five decades. Most political observers are now predicting the opposition Democratic Party of Japan will wrest power from Prime Minister Taro Aso’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The LDP has ruled Japan for virtually all of the past half century, falling only once—and that briefly—from power.

The LDP found itself the opposition in 1993-1994 during a 10-month period when challenged by outsiders. Aside from that, opponents have never been able to muscle enough power with the electorate to win and lead Japan’s government.

The August 30th elections were called by Prime Minister Taro Aso, who dissolved the lower Diet chamber July 21st. Informal posturing and campaigning has been taking place since, but the campaign is now official. Aso and his chief opponent, the Democratic Party of Japan’s President, Yukio Hatoyama, have been speaking out over the past two weeks, outlining party platforms and making traditional campaign promises.

At stake in the upcoming election are 480 lower house seats, of which 300 will come from single-seat districts. The other 180 will be in proportional-representation constituencies. An estimated 1,300 candidates are expected to run for the house seats. Before dissolution of the lower house, the DPJ held 112 seats. To gain a majority, it needs to keep those plus pick up another 129 to marshal a super slim 241-seat power position.

As the 12-day campaign sails by, Aso and his Liberal Democratic Party are expected to pitch the case the DPJ is not fit to lead, while Hatoyama is pressing the case for change, including elimination of bureaucracy-oriented policy-making procedures that don’t take into account the needs of the people.

‘‘The LDP has consistent policies and has the ability to implement them,’’ Aso argued in a debate early in the week. Hatoyama called for change, urging voters to “please give us the power to achieve a change of government.’’

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