The Liberal Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi rolled to an overwhelming victory in Sunday's lower house election. However, the final test has yet to come.
Among encouraging pre-election media polls, the ruling bloc trounced the largest opposition Democratic Party of Japan 327 seats over 113 seats. The LDP and the New Komeito party carried 68. 1 percent of the seats in the lower chamber, a fresh record in Japan after the World War II.
The absolute majority of 296 seats harvested by the LDP also signaled the party, which has ruled Japan in the most of the past 50 year, regained a majority in the lower house for the first time in 15 years.
The landslide victory is largely attributed to Koizumi's skillful campaign technic. The premier decided to call a snap general election after his postal reform bills was rejected in the upper house, which is not to subject to dissolution.
Koizumi said he regarded the voting as a referendum on his postal privatization plan and highlighted solely the issue in his campaign tour.
The reason for the victory was that "whether the public approve or oppose the postal privatization has been the focal point," Koizumi's said after the election.
"The general public determined that postal privatization was a just argument," he said. "The results were just as I had expected. "
The DPJ has been advocating multiple issues in the campaign, including pension reform, state expenditures cut and child-rearing.
"Compared with the single subject of the ruling party, our policy was not so much penetrating," said DPJ Secretary General Tatsuo Kawabata.
"We could not get our policies and message across to voters as we would have liked," said DPJ President Katsuya Okada, who was resigning to take responsibility for the rout.
The opposition party demonstrated a strong momentum in the general election in 2003, seizing 177 seats. It had said Sunday's election was a rare chance to unseat the LDP.
Koizumi, who is adept in galvanize voters' passion, fielded female and celebrities as candidates to challenge LDP rebels who voted against his postal bills. The strategy proved effective as the head-on clashes drawn public attention.
The election also saw a boom of support for the LDP in urban constituencies, a big ballot pool for the young and aggressive DPJ.
In the 71 constituencies covering Tokyo and the three prefectures around, the ruling party won in 63 constituencies, while the DPJ only secured merely 5 ones. In the last general election, the DPJ beat the LDP 36:33.
"Because of the structural reform advocated by Koizumi, the economy in the urban areas is growing and, in rural areas, it is declining," Hiroshi Hoshi, a senior political writer with the leading Asahi Shimbun daily said of the ruling party's rising popularity among urban voters.
He said they feel that Koizumi's reform would relieve their tax burden.
Despite the victory, Koizumi and the LDP are still faced with tough challenges in a wide spectrum of domestic and foreign issues, analysts said.
The postal privatization "is just one of the important issues in Japan's politics. In principle, it is wrong to make one issue dominate a campaign at an election in which voters choose what party should be in office," an editorial of the Yomiuri Shimbun said on Monday.
"The most urgent task that Koizumi has to tackle in the immediate future is social security system reform, including reform of the public pension system. Fiscal rehabilitation also cannot be postponed," the editorial noted.
In terms of foreign policies, the LDP noted the need to improve ties with Asian neighbors. Yet, the points was rarely mentioned in Koizumi's campaign speeches.
After the voting, the premier stopped short of dismissing the possibility of paying a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine when he was answering questions on a live program of the public broadcaster NHK.
His repeated visits to the war criminal-enshrining facility was the major stumbling block in relations with China and South Korea.
"It is very, very successful for Koizumi to avoid discussing diplomatic issues," Hoshi said.
Given the defeat the DPJ suffered, the perspective for a two- party political system remains strong here.
Hoshi noted that the LDP's power is not so strong as before because it is weaker in rural areas. Besides, the ruling party will have a vacuum of leaders as strong as Koizumi once he steps down one year later.
Koizumi has vowed to reshape the faction-bristling LDP ever since he took the helm four years ago. The purge of the postal bills opposition is seen as a vivid move to that end.
"Koizumi is half-successful in revamping the party because there are still a lot of old-styled politicians," Hoshi said, adding that the leader should work out systematic and logical policies instead of carrying out the reform emotionally as he did this time.
He is confident that the DPJ would took over the regime in the several years ahead, saying the election is "the beginning of the end of the LDP politics."