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Monday, Jan. 19, 2009

LDP pledges to unite behind Aso

Party to put economy front and center in upcoming election

Staff writer

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party held its annual convention Sunday to gear up for the upcoming Lower House general election, vowing to unite under Prime Minister Taro Aso and win one of the toughest battles it has ever faced.

Aso, who is president of the LDP, expressed his determination to lead the party to victory in the election that must be held this year because the terms of Lower House members end in September.

"Out of all of the political parties, the LDP is the only party that can come up with measures to tackle" the current economic crisis, Aso told the convention in Tokyo.

Convention participants were keenly conscious of the opposition parties led by the LDP's main rival, the Democratic Party of Japan, which pundits say could win the election and seize power from the LDP-New Komeito coalition.

"Let's appeal to the public with the unwavering belief that the DPJ's intention to seize government power is only an illusion," the LDP's 2009 campaign platform adopted Sunday says.

LDP Secretary General Hiroyuki Hosoda harshly criticized the DPJ, saying it is placing priority on its own interests and stonewalling Diet business.

"We cannot yield government power to such an irresponsible party," Hosoda said. "Let us be confident and proud of the 50 years of the party's history during which we moved forward together with the public — and let's unite and win the election."

Aso and Hosoda made no reference to U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who will take office this week. But in a written statement, the LDP promised to deepen relations with the United States.

"In the U.S., the new Obama administration will be formed," the statement adopted at the convention says. "We will strengthen Japan-U.S. relations even more, and cooperate on various issues, including the economy, finance and defense."

New Komeito leader Akihiro Ota made an appearance and stressed the strong ties between the two parties, promising to fight the election together.

"We must win the Lower House general election at any cost and we must send out a message that only the LDP-New Komeito coalition can lead (Japan) to overcome this difficult time," Ota said. "The ruling coalition shall win a majority . . . and that will be a victory for the public as well."

The coalition was formed in 1999, but recent relations have been rocky because of various disagreements, including the timing of the election, a consumption tax hike and the ¥2 trillion cash handout program.

With Aso and his Cabinet wallowing amid plunging public support — below 20 percent in a recent Kyodo News survey — the cooperation of New Komeito, which is backed by Japan's largest lay Buddhist organization, in the Lower House election is a must.

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The Japan Times

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