Japan PM quits as party head after landslide defeat

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Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso told a news conference Monday that he will resign as head of the nation’s ruling party after a crushing defeat in Sunday’s parliamentary election.

His Liberal Democratic Party, which had dominated Japanese politics for more than five decades, lost two-thirds of its lawmakers in the lower house of parliament after failing to sway voters it could tackle the country’s economic stagnation and spiraling welfare costs. The Democratic Party of Japan captured 308 of 480 seats, almost an exact reversal of their previous standing.

“I very much regret that so many of my comrades lost,” Aso said in a national televised press conference in Tokyo. “I’d like to resign as LDP president.”

Opposition leader Yukio Hatoyama, who will almost certainly become the next head of state, began talks Monday to select Cabinet ministers and form a new government.

In Washington, the White House issued a statement saying that U.S. President Barack Obama looks forward to “working closely” with the new Japanese premier.