Ruling party allows Japanese PM to stay in power


Tokyo : Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will continue to serve as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) despite a serious defeat in Sunday's upper house election, LDP board members decided Monday.

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"I will keep promoting reforms. I expect (the LDP senior officials) to tackle the issue of money and politics more vigorously," Abe reportedly told the board members Monday.

The LDP board was expected to meet later with the opposition parties to set an extraordinary Diet session to open Aug 7.

The LDP was also to reaffirm its coalition with New Komeito party and support Abe's administration later in the day.

Abe's ruling coalition suffered a crushing defeat in Sunday's election for House of Councillors, failing to keep the majority in the upper chamber of the Japanese parliament for the first time since 1998.

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), on the other hand, became the first party other than LDP to secure the most number of seats in the upper house since the LDP was established in 1955.

Although the election result put immense pressure on Abe to resign, the 52-year-old premier announced his intention to stay in power despite the massive loss.

"This humiliating setback is my responsibility," Abe said in television interviews. "Our nation building has just begun… I would like to continue to fulfil my responsibility as prime minister."

The serious election loss resulted from a series of controversial remarks and scandals by some cabinet members, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said Monday.

"We lost the public's confidence," Shiozaki said. "We must sincerely take it as an important message."

The LDP won 37 seats in Sunday's election, reducing its total number of upper house seats to 83 in the 242-seat chamber, including an uncontested 46.

But the number of seats the LDP garnered Sunday fell far short of the 44 it won in the upper house election of 1998 that forced then prime minister Ryutaro Hashimoto to immediately step down. The figure of 37 was the LDP's second-worst upper house election result since it was established in 1955.

The main opposition DPJ, which became the largest party in the upper house, secured 60 seats to make the total 109 seats, including an uncontested 49. The DPJ had a total of 81 before the election.