Japan's leaders hang on
In national elections to the Upper House of the Diet, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) of the embattled Prime Minister, Tomiichi Murayama, lost 60 per cent of its 41 contested seats. Its coalition partner, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), gained 13 seats, fewer than had been anticipated, and the government as a whole secured about 65 seats, little more than half of the 126 that were up for election. The leading opposition party, Shinshinto, more than doubled its share from 19 to 39. Voter turn-out, at around 45 per cent, was the lowest in post-war history. Never before have fewer than half of all voters turned out for a national election.
After a disastrous year, Mr Murayama's team appeared to have no more credibility left to lose. A cabinet reshuffle is likely this week but, as party leaders met at the Prime Minister's residence to pick over the results last night, there were no signs of immediate changes among the government's key personnel.
Political analysts, including members of Mr Murayama's own party, had fostered the view that the elections were a referendum on the 71-year- old Prime Minister, who had promised to "take responsibility" for heavy Socialist losses, a euphemism for resignation.
But as the election has neared, and opinion polls worsened, party statements of what constitutes defeat have been revised ever downward. The SDP's original goal was 22 seats, equivalent to its showing in the last Upper House elections three years ago; last week the figure of 20, the party's worst previous showing in an Upper House election, was being floated. But, despite late results suggesting an SDP total of 16, coalition leaders denied that Mr Murayama would resign.
"We have a strong desire to maintain the existing coalition government," said the LDP's vice-president, Keizo Obuchi. "Is it appropriate for a change of government when there are numerous tasks to be tackled?''
IoS exclusive: MI5 'tried to recruit' Woolwich attack suspect Michael Adebolajo
French soldier stabbed in the neck in Paris
EDL marches on Newcastle as attacks on Muslims increase tenfold in the wake of Woolwich machete attack which killed Drummer Lee Rigby
Fallen angel: Winona Ryder on bouncing back from her decade in the wilderness
Hurricane season fears as warning satellite fails
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.