Japanese Voters Mix Signals

VOTERS in a local election failed to give a clear signal to Japan's leaders on a pending bill that aims to send troops to the Middle East. The largest vote-getter in the Nov. 4 election was a ruling-party candidate who supported the proposed military dispatch. But a larger share of votes went to his two opponents, a socialist and communist, who opposed the bill.

The election, held in the mid-Japan prefecture of Aichi, was widely seen as a mini-referendum on the controversial bill. Toshihisa Oshima, candidate of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), received only 45 percent of the vote to fill an empty upper house seat.

The mixed results in the popular election could lead to the defeat of the parliamentary measure, many analysts say. The LDP-sponsored bill provides a liberal interpretation of a constitutional ban against the use of force by Japan in international disputes.

LDP leaders hope to appease Washington by trying to pass the bill in the lower house by Thursday, just days before parliament adjourns. The bill faces almost no chance of passage in the opposition-controlled upper house. Some LDP leaders hope that lower-house passage might help the political prospects for Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu.

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