Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his Liberal Democratic Party cruised to victory Sunday, handily winning a majority in the 480-seat House of Representatives and giving him a mandate to push ahead with postal privatization.
In contrast, the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition force, was battered in the election. It was expected to fall short of the 177 seats it held going into the race, and its leader, Katsuya Okada, indicated later in the evening that he would step down.
"The general public determined that postal privatization was a just argument," Koizumi, who is also LDP president, said Sunday night in declaring victory.
"The results were just as I had expected."
Okada meanwhile bluntly said, "It is only natural that the leader bear responsibility" for an election loss. "I apologize for not being able to bring about a change of government," reports Japan Times.
According to Washington Post, the media-savvy Koizumi's tactic of sending "assassins" against the "traitors," dubbed "Koizumi Theater," also succeeded in keeping the limelight off the opposition Democratic Party.
"They would stop at nothing to achieve their aim," Kyodo news agency quoted Shizuka Kamei, 68, a former LDP heavyweight, as telling a news conference in reference to the LDP strategy.
"They have put people under mind control."
A total of 18 rebels out of 33 who ran in single-seat districts retained their seats, Japanese media said.
Among them was Seiko Noda, 44, a former post minister who has been cited as a candidate to become Japan's first female prime minister.
Noda defeated Yukari Sato, a U.S. educated economist who was handpicked by Koizumi to run in the provincial city of Gifu.