TOKYO, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Japan on Friday dissolved
parliament's lower house for a Dec. 16 general election that
polls suggest will return the long-dominant, and currently main
opposition, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Below are some key
facts about political parties that could play important roles
after the election.
DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF JAPAN (DPJ)
2009 lower house election result: 308 out of 480 seats
Formed in a merger of several opposition parties, the party
swept to power in 2009 ending more than a half a century of
nearly non-stop Liberal Democratic Party rule. It campaigned on
a promise to break up the "iron triangle" between the powerful
bureaucracy, business and LDP lawmakers, pay more heed to
consumers' interests and put elected officials in charge of
Its leader Yoshihiko Noda, 55, is already Japan's sixth
prime minister since 2006 and the third DPJ government chief.
Noda, a former finance minister, made raising the sales tax
his top goal although it did not figure in the party's 2009
campaign platform. He is also a proponent of a U.S.-led free
trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and wants to make it
part of his party's election platform.
The Democrats' support slumped over what voters saw as
broken promises, a confused response to last year's tsunami and
nuclear crisis and Noda's embrace of unpopular causes such as
the tax hike and the restart of nuclear reactors.
LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF JAPAN (LDP)
2009 election result: 119 seats
Until the 2009 election the party, which has nurtured close
ties with business and the bureaucracy, has been in power either
alone or in coalitions almost non-stop since its establishment.
Its leader Shinzo Abe, 58, who already served as prime
minister in 2006-2007, has said he would not yield in a
territorial row with China but would do more to mend economic
ties with Japan's giant neighbour. If his party takes power, Abe
has also said he would increase defence spending if needed.
A vocal critic of the Bank of Japan, Abe is expected to pile
pressure on the central bank to ease monetary policy further and
might delay the sales tax rise if deflation persists.
Abe also favours a key role for nuclear power in Japan's
energy mix despite a dramatic shift in public opinion in favour
of phasing out nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster.
2009 result: 21 seats
The New Komeito, which was founded by members of a Buddhist
sect, the Soka Gakkai, is a former ally of the LDP and expected
to be in any coalition led by the larger conservative party.
It tends to focus on economic policies for the less well
off, and wants steps to mitigate the impact of the sales tax
hikes on low-income earners.
PEOPLE'S LIFE FIRST
Former Democratic Party leader Ichiro Ozawa, 70, launched
the new group in July after quitting the ruling party with
dozens of other lawmakers over Noda's sales tax hike plan. It
is now the third-largest party in parliament's lower house.
But many of its members are rookie MPs and it is unclear how
many seats the party can grab given its low voter support.
Ozawa may also struggle to find partners after his role in
creating and breaking up parties he has formed since he left the
LDP in 1993 earned him the nickname "Destroyer."
The PLF opposes the sales tax hike and aims to wean Japan
from its dependence on nuclear power, which covered about 30
percent of Japan's power needs before last year's Fukushima
JAPAN RESTORATION PARTY
Website: http://j-ishin.jp/(Japanese only)
Popular Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, 43, launched the party
in September, stressing policies to shrink the role of the
central government and promote free-market competition.
Hashimoto, a former lawyer and TV talk show celebrity whom
critics say has an authoritarian streak, plans to run hundreds
of candidates in the election but has dismissed speculation that
he may himself run in the election.
Hashimoto wants to boost Japan's ability to defend itself -
while keeping close ties with security ally the United States -
and seeks a referendum on revising the pacifist constitution.
On energy policy, Hashimoto back-pedalled on an early
anti-nuclear stance when he signed off on nuclear reactor
restarts to avoid possible summer blackouts.
Most opinion polls put Hashimoto's party roughly even with
THE SUNRISE PARTY
Website:http://www.taiyounotou.jp/ (Japanese only)
Formed by five conservative lawmakers it was renamed and
re-formed in November when former Tokyo Governor Shintaro
Ishihara, 80, joined the party. The outspoken Ishihara is keen
to join forces with the younger Hashimoto in hopes they can win
a swing vote in parliament.
Ishihara, whose failed attempt to buy disputed islands in
the East China Sea ignited a row with Beijing, wants to bolster
Japan's defence, become more assertive in diplomacy and replace
its pacifist constitution.
Ishihara rose to prominence in his 20s as a novelist and
entered politics in the late 1960s as a LDP lawmaker. In 1989,
he made waves with his book "The Japan That Can Say No",
co-authored with Sony chairman Akio Morita and urging Japan to
become more assertive in relations with the United States.
(Compiled by Kaori Kaneko and Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by
Linda Sieg and Tomasz Janowski)