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Japan's Prime Minister Calls Elections, Sets Nov. 9 as Date

October 10, 2003|From Associated Press

TOKYO — Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi ordered the lower house of Japan's parliament dissolved today, paving the way for national elections that he hopes will strengthen his party.

The dissolution places the 480 seats of the powerful lower house up for grabs. Koizumi set Nov. 9 as the date for the balloting.

The order was issued after a morning Cabinet meeting, Japanese news services said. It will formally take effect after it is read to the lower chamber this afternoon.

In parliament's final act before the lower chamber's dissolution, the upper house passed into law a two-year extension of key anti-terrorism legislation, under which Japanese ships and military personnel have transported fuel and supplies to U.S. and other allies in Afghanistan.

Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party already controls a majority in the chamber, with 244 seats.

Although Koizumi, fresh from a landslide reelection as ruling party president, enjoys support ratings of around 60%, he has been dogged by Japan's economic woes.

Takako Doi, head of the Social Democratic Party, accused Koizumi of deliberately obscuring details of planned Japanese military and financial support for Iraqi reconstruction so that the unpopular issue won't become a focal point during the elections.

In anticipation of the elections, Japan's two largest opposition blocs merged late last month. They have been playing against Koizumi's support for the war in Iraq.

President Bush is scheduled to visit Tokyo next week.

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