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

"We made the issue at stake in these elections very clear: whether Japan should go ahead with structural reforms, or stop them," said Shinzo Abe, a senior LDP official seen by many as a potential successor to Koizumi. "As a result, we've gained the support of a wide section of the population."

Abe said the party would not jettison its Buddhist-backed coalition partner, the New Komei Party, even if it won a majority on its own.

Japanese media reported that LDP members had begun calling for Koizumi to stay on after his term as party president ends next September. Koizumi has said he intends to step down, however, and he repeated that vow Sunday.

The elections were sure to have deep repercussions on Japan's political landscape and speed the pace of government reforms.

"We did not expect this," said Katsuya Okada, who resigned early Monday as leader of the Democrats. "I don't think our policies were wrong, but we must reconsider our tactics."

The opposition's meltdown was all the more stunning because it came despite a high voter turnout, which usually plays in its favor.

"They had their shot and they blew it," said Gerald Curtis, a Japanese politics expert at Columbia University. "The LDP was and still is ready to be overthrown — the problem is it's been overthrown by its own president rather than the opposition."

One area that probably will not change is Japan's strained relationship with some of its neighbors, which have been angered by Koizumi's visits to a

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