Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso conceded defeat in elections today as media exit polls indicated the opposition had won by a landslide, sending the conservatives out of power after 54 years of nearly unbroken rule amid widespread economic anxiety and desire for change.
"These results are very severe," Aso said in a news conference at party headquarters, conceding his party was headed for a big loss. "There has been a deep dissatisfaction with our party."
Aso said he would have to accept responsibility for the results, suggesting that he would resign as party president. Other LDP leaders also said they would step down, though official results were not to be released until tomorrow early morning.
The left-of-centre Democratic Party of Japan was set to win 300 or more of the 480 seats in the lower house of parliament, ousting the Liberal Democrats, who have governed Japan for all but 11 months since 1955, according to exit polls by all major Japanese TV networks.
The loss by the Liberal Democrats - traditionally a pro-business, conservative party - would open the way for the Democratic Party, headed by Yukio Hatoyama, to replace Aso and establish a new Cabinet, possibly within the next few weeks.
The vote was seen as a barometer of frustrations over Japan's worst economic slump since World War II and a loss of confidence in the ruling Liberal Democrats' ability to tackle tough problems such as the rising national debt and rapidly ageing population.
The Democrats have embraced a more populist platform, promising handouts for families with children and farmers and a higher minimum wage.
The Democrats have also said they will seek a more independent relationship with Washington, while forging closer ties with Japan's Asian neighbours, including China.
But Hatoyama, who holds a doctorate in engineering from Stanford University, insists he will not seek dramatic change in Japan's foreign policy, saying the US-Japan alliance would "continue to be the cornerstone of Japanese diplomatic policy."
National broadcaster NHK, using projections based on exit polls of roughly 400,000 voters, said the Democratic Party was set to win 300 seats and the Liberal Democrats only about 100. TV Asahi, another major network, said the Democratic Party would win 315 seats.
The LDP's secretary-general, Hiroyuki Hosoda, said he and two other top officials plan to submit their resignations to Aso, who serves as president of the party.
Officials said turnout was high, despite an approaching typhoon, indicating the intense level of public interest in the hotly contested campaigns.
Ruling Party Concedes Defeat in Japan Elections
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