Robin Harding

Robin Harding is the FT's US economics editor, based in Washington. Prior to this, he was based in Tokyo, covering the Bank of Japan and Japan's technology sector, and in London as an economics leader writer. Robin studied economics at Cambridge and has a masters in economics from Hitotsubashi University, where he was a Monbusho scholar. Before joining the FT, Robin worked in asset management and banking.

Robin Harding

Welcome to the FT’s live coverage of the elections in Japan.

0140 For comprehensive coverage of the election and what it all means, please read the newspaper tomorrow. Good night!

0139 It’s been an exciting evening, but the real fun starts now, as the shape of the DPJ government becomes clear and the LDP works out what to do with itself.

0137 It’s about time to wrap this up. The DPJ has won a historic victory and taken a substantial majority in the lower house of the Japanese Diet. DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama will be the new prime minister. Prime minister Taro Aso has quit as leader of the LDP.

0136 That means that there are some constraints on its power: if all the other parties unite they will be able to block legislation in the upper house. The lack of a super-majority also makes the DPJ vulnerable if the LDP bounces back in the upper house elections next year.

0132 There are only three seats left to declare. The DPJ has 306 and its smaller allies another 10 so they will not reach the super-majority of 320.

0128 Akio Kyuma, a former defence minister, has lost his seat in Nagasaki No. 2 district to the DPJ’s Eriko Fukuda, a 28 year-old woman. Mr Kyuma will not win a seat via proportional representation.

0125 Yuriko Koike lost in Tokyo No. 10 but she will also return via proportional representation. That means both Ms Koike and Kaoru Yosano, now the ex-finance minister, will be in the Diet for possible election as the new LDP leader.

0121 Mr Hatoyama is talking about the need to listen to the people. He makes an odd reference to the views of Ichiro Ozawa, the previous leader of the DPJ and still a dominant figure in the party. For the time being, that relationship is the pivot on which Japanese politics will rest.

0118 Nobutaka Machimura, leader of the LDP’s largest internal faction, and ex-LDP general secretary Tsutomu Takebe are returned via the Hokkaido PR list. Given the LDP’s reduced size, however, policy debates in Japan will no longer be played out amongst the LDP’s internal factions.

0115 Kaoru Yosano, the LDP finance minister, has been elected via the Tokyo proportional representation list. The fate of Yuriko Koike, the former defence minsiter, is still not clear.

0113 The LDP are picking up seats in the PR lists. They now have 116 with 10 left to declare.

0112 Mr Hatoyama apologises for not winning enough seats in the proportional representation part of the vote. I imagine his party will forgive him.

0109 “The role of politics is to support vulnerable people and think about each person’s happiness,” says Mr Hatoyama.

0107 We are not denying all market principles but they are not the only principles, says Mr Hatoyama.

0103 The situation is now 303 seats for the DPJ and 115 for the LDP with 14 left to declare. The DPJ can no longer reach the 320 super-majority by itself.

0102 Mr Hatoyama is fending off further questions about his cabinet. He says that some positions may have to be decided sooner than others, e.g. foreign minister.

0100 Japan’s new prime minister Yukio Hatoyama is speaking. He is making the very good point that the LDP will have as many seats after the election as the DPJ before it. “I am sure that they will revive,” Mr Hatoyama says. Good politics to say that.

0050 Back to the Hokkaido situation – the LDP have only won 2 proportional representation seats, so ex-finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa is almost certainly gone. I’m fairly sure that faction leader Nobutaka Machimura and ex-LDP general secretary Tsutomu Takebe will get those two seats.

0047 Yuriko Koike, the former defence minister seen as a possible leader of the LDP, has lost her seat in Tokyo No. 10 district. She, too, may survivie via proportional representation.

0046 Finance minister Kaoru Yosano has lost his seat in Tokyo No. 1 district. He may come back via the proportional representation list.

0042 The current state of play is that NHK have called 302 seats for the DPJ and 111 for the LDP with 22 seats still to go. It therefore looks likely that the DPJ will fall short of a 320 super-majority by itself, although it may get there with allies.

0040 I can confirm that despite the DPJ’s dramatic victory, I saw no dancing on the rather damp streets of Tokyo. I overheard several interesting conversations on the train but none of them were about politics.

0039 Almost exactly an hour later, this is live again. FT accountants will be pleased to know that I caught the second last train home, and so saved them a taxi fare.

2341 Right. There’s not a lot going on at the moment, so I’m going to make a dash for the last train home. I’ll pick this up again in an hour or so. NHK has called 276 seats for the DPJ and 91 for the LDP. See you in an hour.

2332 DPJ vice president Katsuya Okada has taken to the airwaves on behalf of the party now. The LDP are keeping pretty quiet.

2329 Anyway, back to the big picture. NHK has now called 268 seats for the DPJ and 87 for the LDP. It is going to be tight for the 320 super-majority.

2326 So, how does that work out in Hokkaido (and we really are getting inside-Japanese-electoral-politics here)? Well, the LDP has won 2, and may win 3 proportional representation seats on the island. Nobutaka Machimura and Tsutome Takebe lost by less than Mr Nakagawa, so I think that he is gone.

However, there are two other close races, which could yet spell the end for Mr Machimura and Mr Takebe if LDP candidates lose by less than they did. Is that all clear now? No? It’s not clear to me either.

2322 Basically, all the LDP’s candidates in single-seat constituencies are ranked equal first in the LDP’s proportional representation list for that block. So, in Hokkaido, the 12 LDP candidates in the various constituencies are equal top of the LDP’s list for the Hokkaido PR block.

What I understand is that the candidates who lose by least in their own constituency get priority in the PR list.

2321 Going back to the situation in Hokkaido, I’ll try to explain the complicated rules for how PR candidates are chosen if they lost their personal constituency. Please don’t trust this too much.

2320 Former LDP prime minister Yoshiro Mori is, by the skin of his teeth, the projected winner in Ishikawa No. 2.

2318 In Hokkaido, it looks like former finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa, who resigned after his tired and emotional press conference at the G7 in Rome, is out. He has definitely lost his personal constituency and I don’t think he can come back through proportional representation.

2311 The Social Democrats and the People’s New Party – the DPJ’s allies – are on TV putting forward their demands. The Social Democrats like peace and don’t like nuclear weapons; the New Party wants to scrap postal privatisation. This is a small sign of the very large policy differences that still have to bridged without and within the DPJ.

2307 One of the commercial networks – sorry I’ll need a commercial break to work out which one – is forecasting 324 seats for the DPJ. That would be the super-majority, if it pans outs.

2301 So what is left for the rest of the night? The big question is whether the DPJ can reach a 320 super-majority, with or without its coalition partners. Other than that, we still want to know whether some famous LDP names will survive. Former prime minister Yoshiro Mori is a little ahead in Ishikawa No. 2.

2259 An update on the scores in play. NHK has now declared 255 seats for the DPJ and 65 for the LDP. 240 is enough for an absolute majority; 320 gives the super-majority that allows a party to force bills through the upper house, where the DPJ only has a majority in coalition.

2256 Yasuo Fukuda, the LDP prime minister before Taro Aso, has retained his seat in Gunma prefecture. That tells us something: he was thought to be at risk, so his survival sets the limits on the DPJ’s victory. It’ll be a close run thing as to whether the DPJ can win the super-majority of 320.

2252 As for what it all means, there will be extensive analysis in tomorrow’s Financial Times.

2251 Just to sum up the story of the night: the DPJ have an absolute majority, prime minister Taro Aso has conceeded defeat and said that he will quit as leader of the LDP.

2246 Hakuo Yanagisawa, the former LDP health minister who drew controversy in 2007 when he described women as “birth-giving machines”, has lost his constituency seat. He may be back via PR.

2244 The current situation according to NHK is: 247 seats called for the DPJ, 61 for the LDP, 10 for Komeito, 2 for the Communists, 2 for the Social Democrats, 3 for the People’s New Party, and 9 others.

2243 Sorry for the delay in updates. I’ve just been updating the main online news story.

2223 Mr Hatoyama is refusing to be drawn on who will be in his cabinet. “I have to keep next year’s upper house election in mind”, he says, in reference to whether all-powerful party boss Ichiro Ozawa will get a cabinet post.

2222 Mr Hatoyama is on NHK now. The climax of the evening has arrived early. “We have to absorb the needs of the people and respond to those needs,” says Mr Hatoyama. Early platitudes from the new prime minister.

2220 And that’s it. NHK has now called 241 seats for the Democratic Party of Japan. They will be the new government and Yukio Hatoyama the new leader.

2219 “I would like to express my congratulations and expectations on the Democratic Party’s victory,” says Mr Aso.

2218 NHK has now called 240 seats for the DPJ. One more will give them an absolute majority.

2217 “I think I should take responsibility for the defeat,” says Mr Aso. I think that’s it.

2216 This a concession speech, just without the word concession. “I think there will be talks about who will succeed me as president of the LDP,” Mr Aso says.

2215 “I believe that this is the judgement of the public and we will have to reflect on that sincerely,” says Taro Aso.

2213 Taro Aso is about to speak at LDP headquarters. It’s typical of the man’s timing – NHK will probably declare that the DPJ has reached 241 seats while he is on air – they have 237 at the moment.

2211 Things are also looking grim for finance minister Kaoru Yosano in Tokyo No. 1 district.

2208 All three LDP heavyweights are declared losers in Hokkaido. Nobutaka Machimura, leader of the LDP’s biggest faction, former finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa, and former LDP secretary-general Tsutomu Takebe are all gone. I don’t think that all three can come back through the proportional representation list.

2207 Prime minister Taro Aso is at the LDP’s party headquarters but his seat in front of the cameras is empty for now. LDP insiders are saying that he will have no choice but to resign as leader of the party, according to NHK.

2156 It’s getting closer to official. Including allies, NHK has now called 242 seats for a potential DPJ coalition, enough for an absolute majority. The DPJ has 230 by itself.

2149 Including its allies, such as the Social Democrats, the DPJ is now at 237 seats called by NHK. 241 are needed for an absolute majority.

2143 Mr Hatoyama is being asked whether he will include the Social Democrats and People’s New Party in his government if he wins. Yes, is the answer. “Whether they will be members of the cabinet, we will have to talk to them,” he says. The small parties would probably prefer a less overwhelming DPJ victory.

2142 Yukio Hatoyama, the DPJ leader and likely the new prime minister of Japan, is answering questions. He’s thanking the public while at the same time claiming that we have to wait for the final results.

2141 LDP prime minister Taro Aso has now been called as winner of his own seat.

2140 Things have slowed down a little now with most of the obvious seats already called. Do comment if you’re out there.

2134 NHK is now calling 212 seats for the DPJ. A reminder, they need 241 for an absolute majority.

2133 NHK is projecting a turnout of 69 per cent, the highest since 1996. A high turnout was expected and it looks to have come through.

2131 Yukio Hatoyama, the leader of the DPJ, has arrived at party HQ. He is attaching red flowers to a board next to the names of victorious candiates. It may take him a while if he does them all.

2129 The 28 year-old Shinjiro Koizumi, son of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, has been declared winner for the LDP in Kanagawa No. 11 district, the seat his father has just vacated. The LDP looks to be on its way out, but dynastic politics in Japan lives on.

2122 Ichiro Ozawa is hoping from channel to channel with no sign of Yukio Hatoyama, the party leader. Mr Ozawa really is the face of the DPJ tonight.

2117 NHK is now calling 197 seats for the DPJ. It’ll be time to declare victory when NHK calls 241.

2114 Mr Ozawa carefully points out that he is not the prime minister (although you can understand why people might be confused, such is his stature) before promising that the DPJ will undoubtedly be able to keep all of its election pledges.

2112 Ichiro Ozawa, the DPJ chief before Yukio Hatoyama and the political mastermind between the DPJ’s advance, mops his brow on Asahi TV and then says that it’s “too soon for congratulations”. The TV network that he’s taking to would disagree – they now have 279 seats called for the DPJ.

2108 The commercial networks are not being as conservative with ther declarations as NHK. Asahi TV has already called 278 seats for the DPJ, which would give them an absolute majority.

2103 NHK says the mood at LDP headquarters is grim. Another seat has been called for the DPJ – it’s 182 now.

2101 The overall situation: the DPJ now has 181 declared seats to 43 for the LDP. The DPJ needs 241 for an absolute majority.

The DPJ is already declared the winner of 11 of the 25 Tokyo single-member seats. It won 1 last time.

2054 Some links for those who want to follow all this in more detail. If both you and your computer understand Japanese, then visit NHK’s interactive site. If not, NHK World will update the results faster than I can.

There are good maps of what happened last time at Adam Carr’s Election Archive. Or, if you want to know why it’s all happening and what it all means, read Mure Dickie’s superb coverage on ft.com.

2047 Yukio Hatoyama, the DPJ leader, has already won his Hokkaido seat. Some other notable figures, such as former LDP prime minster Shinzo Abe, are also declared winners.

2045 In Tokyo, finance minister Kaoru Yosano is behind in district No. 1, as is Yuriko Koike in Tokyo No. 10.

2037 It looks like Nobutaka Machimura, the head of the LDP’s largest internal faction, has lost his seat in Hokkaido No. 5. He may survive via the proportional representation list, but the LDP looks set to be wiped out in the constituencies on the northern island.

2030 The current state of play: NHK has already called 176 seats for the DPJ versus 42 for the LDP. The DPJ needs 241 for an absolute majority.

Welcome to our regularly updated coverage of a Japanese election that already looks set to be a landmark in the country’s post election history.

The polls only closed 30 minutes ago but a huge amount has already happened. The top line: exit polls say the opposition Democratic Party of Japan will win between 297 and 329 seats, giving it an absolute majority in the lower house, and possible even a two-thirds super majority that would let it rule without the need for allies in the upper house.

That is revolutionary: the LDP has ruled Japan for all but a brief 11-month since 1955

I’ll update on the results we already know in a minute.

Robin Harding

A landmark Japanese election – one that all the polls say will see the ejection of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party for only the second time in 53 years – is nearing a climax. Voting ends at 8pm in Japan, which is 12 noon in London, and 7am on the US East Coast.

After that, we expect things to move fast. Exit polls should be available rapidly, and with electronic voting in many polling stations, some urban seats may produce results early in the evening, with a possible concession in the early hours of the morning if the outcome is clear.

I will be updating the site throughout the evening, and with correspondents at both LDP and Democratic Party of Japan HQs, we are planning an extensive package on what it all means for tomorrow’s paper.

In the meantime, here’s a guide on what to look out for this evening:

- Voting is in two parts. There are 300 first-past-the-post constituencies and 180 seats elected from 11 proportional representation blocks. The first-past-the-post system means that big swings are possible.

- In 2005, the LDP won 219 constituencies and 77 PR seats, for a total of 296. The DPJ won 52 constituencies and 61 PR seats for a total of 113. For details on the outcome last time, visit Adam Carr’s Elections Archive or Wikipedia.

- The main question, therefore, is whether the DPJ can get to 241 seats and secure an absolute majority. Some polls suggest it will get 300, or even 320, which would mean a two-thirds supermajority and the power to force bills through the Diet’s upper house.

- There are lots of interesting subplots. One is the fate of the smaller parties – New Komeito, the LDP’s Buddhist allies; the Social Democrats; the Communists; and several others – who look likely to be squeezed by the DPJ.

- Another is the fate of several LDP big-hitters who are in danger of losing their seats. Some would be saved via the PR lists – but at grave cost to their prestige.

- Areas to watch include Tokyo, where the DPJ won only one single-seat constituency of the 25 last time, and may win 20 this time. That could include the Tokyo No. 1 district of finance minister Kaoru Yosano, and the Tokyo No. 10 seat of Yuriko Koike, the female former defence minister seen as a possible future leader of the LDP.

- On the northern island of Hokkaido, the LDP is at risk of annihilation in the 12 single-seat constituencies, which would mean defeat for faction leader Nobutaka Machimura, former finance minister Shoichi Nakagawa, and former LDP secretary-general Tsutomu Takebe. With the LDP likely to win a maximum of 3 seats in the Hokkaido PR block, all three would be unlikely to survive.

- Several former prime ministers risk defeat. In Ishikawa No. 2, former PM Yoshiro Mori is in a close race with a 33 year-old DPJ candidate called Mieko Tanaka. Yasuo Fukuda, who was the PM before current LDP leader Taro Aso, is also in a tight race in Gunma No. 4.

Stick with us this evening – whatever happens, it’s going to be interesting.

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Leyla Boulton is an editor on the FT's main newsdesk
Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson is the FT's media editor
Robin Harding is an FT correspondent in Tokyo
George Parker is the FT's political editor
Sean Smith is an editor on the FT's international companies desk

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