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Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009
LDP tries to forget troubles, put on brave face to celebrate start of new year
By MASAMI ITO
The year of the ox promises to be a tough one for Prime Minister Taro Aso and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Public support has plunged, an internal dispute has surfaced with some LDP members openly criticizing their leader, unemployment is rising and above all, a Lower House general election — in which the LDP could well be defeated by the opposition — must be held by September.
But briefly putting aside this depressing state of affairs, LDP lawmakers gathered Monday at party headquarters in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, to fete the start of the year.
Many female lawmakers dressed in colorful kimono and a few men wore "hakama" (traditional pleated trousers), giving off an air of elegance and cheerfulness despite their gloomy plight.
"I was surprised to see that some of you have changed costumes today," Aso said, drawing laughter from the crowd. "The female lawmakers look charming, and I actually didn't recognize some of you."
Ex-administrative reform minister Yoshimi Watanabe, who criticized Aso's cash benefit program and has threatened to leave the party if it stands, was a no-show at the fete.
"Let's fight in solidarity to the end of this Diet session," Aso said. "And I believe we will then have to seek the judgment of the public in the upcoming general election."
LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda gave a pep talk to boost party members' spirits for the Diet session and general election ahead.