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Japanese prime minister to rule with minority government

November 7, 1996
Web posted at: 12:15 p.m. EST (1715 GMT)

From Correspondent May Lee

TOKYO (CNN) -- Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto easily won a second term in office Thursday, but his biggest challenge is just beginning: ruling the nation with a minority government.

Hashimoto received 262 votes in the 500-member lower house of Parliament, largely due to a loose alliance his conservative Liberal Democratic Party formed with its old allies, the Social Democrats and the tiny Sakigake party.

In lower house elections last month, the LDP failed to secure a majority. But no party, not even its former coalition partners the Social Democrats and Sakigake, will agree to formally join a new coalition.

"The main reason why (LDP is) having difficulties finding partners is because everybody knows the decisions that will be made over 12 to 24 months will be very, very difficult decisions," political analysts Keith Henry said.

Henry specifically said deregulation, administrative reform and economic recovery are key issues facing the government.

Without new alliances, the LDP will rule as a minority government, leaving room for other parties to have an influential voice and the potential to cast crucial swing votes.

As a result, political battles over controversial issues, such as national security, could erupt.

Henry said, "These are still wedge issues: what to do about American bases in Okinawa? What to do about a flare-up in North Korea, Where does Japan stand with Hong Kong, Taiwan and China?"

That leaves one viable option for Hashimoto and his minority government -- maintain the status quo until they can regain a comfortable majority.

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