Hashimoto’s party, Communists both gain sharply in Tokyo election
TOKYO (AP) _ Tokyo voters gave Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto a reassuring show of support Sunday, awarding his party a 16-seat gain in the municipal legislature.
The elections were being watched as an indicator of voter satisfaction with the Liberal Democrats, who lost power in 1993 national elections after almost four decades of rule and whose image has been tarnished by financial scandals.
In Sunday’s balloting, Hashimoto’s Liberal Democratic Party won 54 of the Tokyo Assembly’s 127 seats, up from 38 before the election, Japanese media reported. The party had hoped for 50 seats.
The Communist Party was Sunday’s other big winner, doubling their seat total from 13 to 26 and becoming the second largest party in the legislative body.
The Communists, who hold only one-tenth of the seats held by Hashimoto’s party in the national Parliament’s lower house, have not been a major force in Japanese politics but they often serve as an outlet for voter unhappiness with other parties.
Koichi Katoh, the Liberal Democrats’ secretary-general, attributed his party’s gains to voter appreciation of recent political stability in Japan.
A Communist Party official, Kazuo Shiki, said the election results reflect voter dissatisfaction with all conservative politics in Tokyo.
In the voting results, the Communists were followed by the Buddhist-backed Komeito Party with 24 seats, the Democratic Party with 12, independents with 8, the Tokyo-People Network Party with 2 and the Social Democrats with one.
At the national level, Komeito is part of the New Frontier Party, the Liberal Democrats’ rivals in the conservative camp. New Frontier, which previously held four seats in the Tokyo assembly, won none this time despite fielding 11 candidates.
Turnout was a record low 41 percent for Tokyo’s 9.6 million eligible voters.