The defeat of the Liberal Democratic Party in the Tokyo assembly election is merely a taste of what is to come for a party that has ruled Japan almost uninterrupted for more than half a century.
The LDP lost 10 seats while the opposition Democratic Party of Japan picked up 20, making it the single largest party in the 127-seat chamber and giving the opposition alliance a majority.
The reaction was immediate, with the DPJ planning to file a motion of no-confidence against the government later on Monday and Prime Minister Taro Aso reportedly telling his key aides that he would dissolve the Diet on Tuesday and set the date for the general election.
Analysts believe there is very little chance that Mr Aso will fare any better at the national level.
“He has completely outlived his usefulness to the LDP and his political capital at the moment is zero, if not negative,” said Noriko Hama, a professor at Kyoto’s Doshisha University.
“The LDP does not seem to know how to react to the crisis that it is in and that has not been lost on the electorate,” she said. “I expect this result will be repeated in the general election because the feeling amongst the voters is that this party is on the run and it needs to go.”
And while the DPJ celebrates its victory, it is clear it was built on the failure of the present government rather than any great hopes for rapid improvements in the state of the economy or Japanese society under a DPJ administration.
“It is perhaps true that the voters are blinding themselves about what will happen with a new government, but the main feeling is that we have nothing to lose under the DPJ,” said Professor Hama.
Candidates supported by the LDP have now lost in five by-elections or regional votes and Mr Aso’s support rating before Sunday’s poll stood at 20 per cent.
The only choice that appears left to him is whether he resigns, the party forces him out of office or the electorate passes its unanimous judgement on an administration that is a mere 10 months old.
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