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Opposition wins election in landslide

Japan's opposition Democratic Party won general elections yesterday in a landslide, ousting the long-ruling conservative party, according to media exit polls just after voting ended.
An exit poll by TV Asahi predicted the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) would take 315 seats in the 480-seat lower house, while Tokyo Broadcasting System forecast the centre-left opposition party would win 321 seats.
Public brodcaster NHK predicted the DPJ would win between 298 and 329 seats, against a range of just 84 to 131 seats for the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Prime Minister Taro Aso.
Nippon Television predicted a DPJ total of 324 seats against the LDP's 96.
"It's a landslide win. It's a dramatic election," Hiroshi Hoshi, a veteran journalist with the Asahi Shimbun daily, told TV Asahi.
The LDP – which has ruled Japan with only one 10-month break since 1955 – had 303 seats in the outgoing parliament to the DPJ's 112.
The election blowout by Japan's centre-left opposition was an epochal event in the country's post-war history but the inexperienced new government has no time to rest on its laurels.
The sweeping victory signaled for the untested DPJ over the ruling party, marks the dawn of a true two-party system after half a century of almost unbroken LDP rule.
DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama energised voters with his promise of "revolutionary change" – but now he must deliver as the country faces key challenges, from its deep economic malaise to a looming demographic timebomb.
"We are witnessing a sea change in post-war Japanese politics," said Hideo Otake, politics professor emeritus of Kyoto University.
Gerald Curtis, a veteran Japan watcher and professor of political science at Columbia University, agreed that "this is the end of a 50-year period in Japanese politics. This is not the LDP losing, it's collapsing."
"Monday morning a new era begins in Japanese politics and no-one can say with certainty how it's going to turn out."
Curtis said that "the biggest and most immediate challenge for the DPJ will be how they will organise themselves […] There is almost no-one in that party who has any experience in running a government."
The landmark win "is just the beginning of a bumpy road ahead for the DPJ", said Hiroshi Hirano, politics professor at Gakushuin University, pointing to Japan's economic woes, with unemployment at a post-war high of 5.7 percent.
"Japan needs major surgery to maintain its vigour, but the DPJ," said Waseda University professor of international relations and security Takehiko Yamamoto.
"The DPJ has to answer the question of fiscal debt," said Yamamoto, with Japan's huge public debt already at 170 percent of gross domestic product.
"If the party fails to find the financial resources for their populist pledges, Japan will face twin deficits – like the United States has suffered – in both its fiscal and trade accounts," he said.
"Then Japan will decline to be a second-class citizen in the world."
As they face their to-do list, the DPJ has no time to waste, said Curtis.
"They have a lot of reason to want to succeed," he said. "They have an upper house election next year."

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