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MONDAY, JULY 30, 2007

Japan’s leader has no plans to resign after ruling party’s election losses

By Hans Greimel
Associated Press Writer

TOKYO — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling party suffered humiliating losses in parliamentary elections Sunday after a string of political scandals, exit polls showed, but Abe said he did not plan to resign.

The Liberal Democratic Party, which has ruled Japan almost without interruption since 1955, was set to lose its majority in the upper house while the leading opposition party made huge gains, according to exit polls broadcast by Japanese television networks.

Abe told reporters at his party’s headquarters that he intends to stay on despite the disappointing results, and accepts responsibility for the defeat.

“We tried our best and felt we made some progress, so the results are extremely disappointing ... I must push ahead with reforms and continue to fulfill my responsibilities as prime minister,” he said. “The responsibility for this utter defeat rests with me.”

The Kyodo news agency reported that the party’s No. 2 official may resign.

“If projections are correct, we are looking at utter defeat,” Liberal Democratic Party secretary-general Hidenao Nakagawa told reporters at the party’s Tokyo headquarters after polls closed.

A 28-seat loss

According to television network NTV, the polls showed the Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, the New Komei Party, emerging with 104 seats, a 28-seat loss that left it far short of the 122 needed to control of the 242-member upper house.

The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan appeared set to emerge with 111 seats, up from 83.

The network based its forecast on exit polls taken shortly after the voting ended Sunday night. Other networks had similar projections.

A loss wouldn’t immediately threaten the political grip of the Liberal Democratic Party. The upper house is largely ceremonial, and the Liberal Democratic Party would keep control over the lower house, which chooses the prime minister and can override most votes in the upper house.

Abe said he does not intend to call snap elections for the lower house despite the projected defeat.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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