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Opposition gearing up for lower house, Tokyo assembly elections.

TOKYO, June 2 Kyodo

(EDS: COMBINING PART OF STORY HEADLINED ''LEAD: LOWER HOUSE ENDORSES 55-DAY DIET SESSION EXTENSION'')

Amid mounting speculation that a general election may be called by the summer, opposition parties reiterated their resolve Tuesday to unite and wrest power from the ruling coalition.

Yukio Hatoyama, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, told a Tokyo meeting of a labor union, ''We must win this contest,'' accusing the ruling bloc of dominating national politics during the past three administrations without seeking a public mandate.

''The day has finally come that we change politics,'' Mizuho Fukushima, leader of a smaller opposition party, the Social Democratic Party, told the members of the Japan Trade Union Confederation, also known as Rengo.

Rengo members, which blame the government for having aggravated social and regional disparities, rallied Tuesday to launch campaigning for the election in which it hopes the opposition bloc will oust the ruling parties.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Taro Aso's ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, the New Komeito party, endorsed a 55-day extension of the Diet through July 28 at the House of Representatives despite the opposition's resistance.

Aso said he decided on the extension as he wants to have what he defines as ''important bills'' cleared, but the opposition parties view the move as a strategy to delay a general election, which analysts say the opposition has a good chance of winning given Aso's low popularity.

The prime minister, who has the authority to dissolve the lower house, is likely to do so during the extended session to call a general election by or on Sept. 6, the Sunday immediately before the terms of lower house members expire on Sept. 10.

Political observers say that either Aug. 2 or Aug. 30 is the date when Aso will most likely call an election, given that Aug. 9 is the anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki and that many people are expected to be away on the following Sundays for Japan's Bon holiday break.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said the current Diet session will be ''the last session'' before the lower house term ends, playing down the possibility that the Diet will convene an extraordinary session, a move that could give Aso the option of calling an election even on Sept. 10.

The DPJ's election campaign strategist, Ichiro Ozawa, said at a press conference, ''I assume the Diet will be dissolved while it is in session, and the general thinking is that the election will be called in August.''

With a general election unlikely to be held before the Tokyo metropolitan assembly election on July 12, the DPJ sees the local poll as a ''prelude'' to the nationwide vote and effectively embarked on campaigning Tuesday.

''The election is not just a poll for one local government,'' DPJ Acting President Naoto Kan told about 50 candidates for the Tokyo election who gathered at the party's headquarters. ''It is a major contest that can lead to a change of the central government.''

Speaking to the candidates, Hatoyama said, ''I want you to show your eagerness to challenge the (Gov. Shintaro) Ishihara administration,'' criticizing Ishihara, who is backed by the ruling bloc, for the metropolitan government's sloppy management of Shinginko Tokyo, a bank it partially owns.

The DPJ also announced Tuesday that it has agreed with the People's New Party, its smaller opposition ally, to field DPJ candidates in two single-seat constituencies where the parties' respective candidates were otherwise about to compete with each other.

The parties made the agreement in a bid to obtain as many seats as possible to beat the ruling parties.

Hisaoki Kamei, secretary general of the People's New Party, told the press conference joined by Ozawa, ''Our hope of winning as many seats as possible and achieving a change of government has taken precedence over everything else.''
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Publication:Japan Policy & Politics
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jun 8, 2009
Words:652
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