Opposition to Lead Japan's Upper House

The Associated Press
Monday, August 6, 2007; 10:50 PM

TOKYO -- The upper house of Japan's Parliament elected a Democratic Party lawmaker as its president Tuesday, the first time an opposition member has held the post.

The upper house chose Satsuki Eda in a unanimous vote at the start of a special session following the crushing defeat of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ruling party in July 29 elections.

Eda, a former Science and Technology Agency chief, has served three terms in the upper house and four terms in the lower house.

"The makeup of the upper house has drastically changed after the upper house elections and we are facing a political situation we have never faced before," Eda told the parliamentary session. "I think voters' expectations for the upper house are now extremely high."

Abe's Liberal Democratic Party suffered one of its worst setbacks in 50 years of political domination in last month's elections. The Democratic Party advanced to dominate the 242-seat upper house for the first time with 113 seats, according to the latest figure provided by the upper house.

Abe's ruling coalition still controls the more powerful lower house, which chooses the prime minister.

Despite sagging popularity and calls for his departure, Abe has refused to step down.

Abe's government has been fiercely criticized over some 50 million missing pension records and the misuse of political funds.

The beleaguered prime minister plans to reshuffle his Cabinet. He has not announced exactly when, but has indicated it will take place after he returns from an Aug. 19-25 three-nation overseas trip. Japanese media said the reshuffle may take place Aug. 27.

Since Abe took office in September, three Cabinet ministers have resigned and another committed suicide. In his latest embarrassment, the agriculture minister resigned amid a funds scandal last week.

© 2007 The Associated Press