Japan’s Prime Minister Aso Resigns as Party Chief After Crushing Defeat

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso told a news conference Monday that he will step down as leader of the country’s ruling party after a crushing defeat in Sunday’s parliamentary election.

The Japanese leader apologized and took responsibility for the loss, which gave the opposition Democratic Party of Japan a landslide victory over the Liberal Democratic Party that had dominated Japanese politics for more than 50 years.

Opposition leader Yukio Hatoyama, who will almost certainly become the next prime minister, began talks Monday to select Cabinet ministers and form a new government.

Japanese media exit polls give the DPJ more than 300 of the 480 seats in the House of Representatives – the more powerful of Japan’s two legislative bodies.  The party already controls the upper House of Councilors. 

The victory breaks a political deadlock that has crippled parliament during Japan’s worst recession since World War II.

Official results are expected Monday.

Pre-election polls showed voters concerned about Japan’s economy and aging population.

Mr. Hatoyama has promised sweeping change, with a more family-friendly and less pro-business government.  He has also said Japanese foreign policy will shift away from U.S. influence.

Mr. Hatoyama said the vote clearly reflects a deep public desire to shift Japan’s balance of power.  

In Washington Sunday, White House officials said they are confident the strong U.S.-Japan alliance and the close partnership between the two countries will continue to flourish.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

Photo credit: Taro Aso, Prime Minister of Japan captured during the ‘Buffet Lunch’ at the Annual Meeting 2009 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 31, 2009.