Japan PM's party headed for setback in election


Japanese prime minister Mr Junichiro Koizumi's party looked headed for a setback today's upper house election, a verdict on his three years in office that would weaken his clout and might hamper his economic reforms.

Private TV broadcasters forecast that Mr Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) would win 46 to 48 of the 121 seats at stake - falling short of its target of 51.

Public broadcaster NHK gave an LDP range of 43 to 52.

But Mr Koizumi's ruling coalition looked set to retain its majority in the upper house and already holds a majority in the more powerful lower chamber, which chooses the prime minister.

LDP officials acknowledged that hitting their target would be hard but Mr Koizumi said that would not affect his future.

"If the ruling parties can secure a majority, then it won't be a problem," the prime minister said when asked whether he should step down if his party missed the 51-seat target.

The main opposition Democrats were on track to outperform the long-ruling conservative party, the exit polls showed.