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The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"Finally the opposition got what they wanted"
 real 28k

Friday, 2 June, 2000, 05:50 GMT 06:50 UK
Japan heads for snap election
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori
Mr Mori's popularity is plummeting
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori has set 25 June as the date for a general election after dissolving the lower house of parliament.

Analysts expect his three-way coalition to win, but only after a tough fight.

The 25 June is the birthday of the late prime minister Keizo Obuchi who died last month and appears to have been chosen to try to capitalise on possible sympathy votes.

Opinion polls show a sharp drop in support for Mr Mori, but the governing coalition hopes that signs of an economic recovery and a weak opposition mean it will be able to maintain its majority in parliament.

The dominant Liberal Democratic Party retains a strong organisation and support base in rural areas.

Votes there are more valuable than in the cities because of Japan's electoral system.


Emperor Akihito
The PM's comments about Emperor Akihito evoked memories of imperial Japan
Our corespondent in Tokyo says massive government spending during the long slump has kept the economy ticking over and lavish public works projects have kept supporters happy in key constituencies.

The opposition Democratic Party has accused the government of building up unsustainable debts and is proposing tax hikes and painful economic restructuring.

That policy may backfire with an inherently cautious electorate.

Imperial gaffe

However, the opposition has struck home with attacks on Mr Mori over his recent comments on the role of the Emperor.

It accuses him of violating the secular constitution by describing Japan as a divine country with the Emperor at its centre.

Most analysts believe the government will hold onto power, but with a reduced majority.

However, Mr Mori's own political future is more doubtful, as is the longer term future of the deeply divided Liberal Democratic Party.

The ruling coalition linking Mr Mori's conservative Liberal Democratic Party, the Buddhist-backed New Komeito Party and the tiny New Conservative Party currently holds 336 seats in the 500-member Lower House.

The number of seats will be reduced to 480 as a result of legislative changes.

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See also:

17 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japanese PM says sorry
16 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan: A divine country?
05 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: Yoshiro Mori
31 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Mori faces second censure vote
09 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan fixes election date
07 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Mori pledges Japan 'rebirth'
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