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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Japanese House Rejects Political Reform Bill

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa lost a crucial parliamentary vote Friday on his cherished political reform bills, but refused to accept that the package was dead.

The stunning Upper House defeat, after 17 Socialists crossed the floor to vote against the ruling coalition, posed a grave threat to the survival of Hosokawa's five-month-old government.

Hosokawa said, though, that he would not resign or call snap elections.

"I am not considering such a course," he told a questioner at a news conference aired live after the NHK public network preempted the crucial last minutes of the New Year Sumo Tournament.

Instead, Hokosawa said, the ruling coalition would seek to keep the bills alive through a compromise with the opposition Liberal Democratic Party before Jan. 29, the end of this session.

"I regret the vote, but we will still keep trying. We still have time," Hosokawa, 56, said.

The reforms, part of Hosokawa's electoral vow to clean up the corruption endemic in Japan's public life, cleared the Lower House last November.

Under the constitution, however, all bills except budgets and treaties must pass both chambers to become law.

Theoretically, Hosokawa's reforms could be saved from extinction if government and opposition could strike a deal in the 20-member Joint House Committee, which can be called into session to break parliamentary deadlocks.

Any such deal would require a two-thirds majority within the committee.

Another possible scenario would be for the coalition to try to line up a two-thirds majority in the 511-member Lower House to override the hostile vote in the 252-seat Upper House.

Either course would presuppose government parties making big concessions to the LDP, meaning the measures must now be drastically overhauled within the space of a week or be lost.

The reforms would introduce single-seat electoral districts, said to be less conducive to lavish money politics, and impose stiff penalties for corruption.

If the two sides fail to achieve a compromise, Hosokawa could be forced to step down or call snap elections.

Coalition officials said the Lower House, where they hold a solid majority, would vote Tuesday to ask the Upper House to convene the joint committee.