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Japanese Lawmakers Finalize Enactment of Political Reforms


TOKYO — With the support of Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa's coalition and opposition Liberal Democrats, Parliament's upper house today made final the enactment of Japan's most drastic political reforms since the post-World War II occupation era.

The laws enacted today fill in enforcement dates omitted from an eleventh-hour, stop-gap passage of the bills Jan. 29.

Designed to favor larger parties, the new system is expected to force an amalgamation of the hodgepodge of 10 political parties that now exist into two or three groups and facilitate changes of government.

Until rebels bolted the Liberal Democratic Party last summer, the former ruling party had held power for 38 years.

One more step remains before a general election can be conducted under the new system, which provides for voters in each district to elect a single representative, instead of an average of four, to the lower house. Parliament must approve a bill establishing boundaries for 300 single-seat districts, to be drawn up in six months.

In all, the new lower house will have 500 seats, with voters casting a second ballot for political parties to choose 200 seats through proportional representation.

In exchange for limiting annual corporate donations to individual politicians to $4,800, the government, for the first time, will donate $297 million each year to political parties in proportion to the seats they hold in the lower house.

The new system should be ready to go by early next year. Should Hosokawa dissolve the lower house before then--an action that is not expected--balloting would be conducted under the old system of multi-seat districts.

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