TOKYO -- Despite an ailing economy, Japan chose stability over the unknown in a national election by awarding a majority to the governing coalition. But voters also challenged the status quo by increasing the power of the opposition and women in parliament.
The balloting Sunday appeared typical of a nation long accustomed to politics dominated by the same party -- the conservative Liberal Democrats, who are credited with orchestrating the nation's dramatic economic development after World War II.
According to Monday's final tally, the governing coalition held on to a comfortable majority of 271 seats, or 56 percent, of the 480-seat lower house of Parliament, ensuring that its economic policies centered around public spending will continue.
''Nothing is likely to change. The public opinion expressed in this election is total conservatism -- defending the now,'' the leading business daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun said in a commentary Monday.
The muted cries for change were somewhat surprising, given the enormity of Japan's problems.
The economy barely grew last year after two years of contractions. Unemployment is soaring, and the nation's public debt is ballooning, partly because of the administration's reliance on public spending to turn the economy around.
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori is among the most unpopular of Japan's postwar leaders, coming under fire for a string of gaffes in his three months in office, including calling Japan a ''divine nation,'' evoking painful memories of wartime emperor-worship.
But he will stay on as leader, despite the poor showing by his party, which fell to 233 seats from 271 in the lower house. If the ruling party had suffered a bigger electoral setback, the prime minister would probably have had to resign.
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