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Japan ruling party heads for landslide win
Updated: 2005-09-12 06:51

TOKYO - Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi scored a political triumph Sunday as the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party headed for a landslide win in an election touted as a referendum on his push to privatize Japan's cash-swollen postal system.

Japan ruling party heads for landslide win
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, top, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), places a red rosette on a victorious candidate's name as the party's acting Secretary General Shinzo Abe, left, and the party senior leader Toshihiro Nikai clap hands during the ballot counting for the parliamentary elections at the party headquarters in Tokyo Sunday, Sept 11, 2005. [AP]
Early Monday, public broadcaster NHK projected the LDP won 296 seats in parliament's 480-seat lawmaking lower house, far more than the 241 needed for a majority and the 249 seats it held when Koizumi dissolved the chamber Aug. 8. The most the party ever held was 300 of the body's then 512 seats in 1986.

Combined with the allied New Komei Party, the LDP-led ruling coalition would have more than 320 seats — a two-thirds majority that would let it override votes by the upper house, the body that blocked postal restructuring last month.

Official results were to be announced later Monday for the hotly fought election, which saw voter turnout jump seven points to 67.5 percent from the 2003 ballot, according to a Kyodo News Agency estimate.

"I had hoped we would win a majority with our party alone, but we did even better than that," a beaming Koizumi said late Sunday. "I thank the nation for its support and understanding."

The results keep a staunch ally of President Bush in power. Koizumi is expected to stand by his dispatch of troops to support the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq over opposition objections, and he also strongly supports the continued presence of 50,000 U.S. military personnel in Japan.

Japan also is one of the United States' negotiating partners in the effort to disarm North Korea of its nuclear weapons.

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