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Japan PM dissolves parliament, calls elections

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso on Tuesday dissolved the powerful lower house of parliament, setting the stage for national elections next month that could transform the country's political power structure.

world Updated: Jul 21, 2009 11:27 IST

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso on Tuesday dissolved the powerful lower house of parliament, setting the stage for national elections next month that could transform the country's political power structure.

In Japan, the prime minister can decide when to disband parliament and call a general election. Aso had postponed doing so in the hope that his low approval ratings would recover, but after his party was routed in local elections last week he announced the elections for parliament's lower house would be held August 30.

The country's political parties quickly shifted into election mode, holding rallies of their lawmakers. Japan's opposition leader vowed the elections would be "historic".

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has maintained a majority in the lower house for most of the past 50 years, allowing them to dominate the lawmaking process and select the prime minister and Cabinet members from party ranks.

Recent opinion polls show the next election could be different, with many voters saying they will support the opposition. This has happened repeatedly in local elections, where the Liberal Democrats have suffered a string of defeats.

"The feelings and complaints of the people have been demonstrated in the recent elections. We must sincerely reflect on this and are determined to make a fresh start," Aso told party lawmakers.