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6 opposition parties in Japan reach agreement on reforms


TOKYO -- Six of seven opposition parties that could form a coalition in Japan for the first time since 1948 appeared to reach agreement yesterday on reforms that would form the basis of a non-Liberal Democratic Party government.

Leaders of two key parties announced that they would demand acceptance of a reform plan as the price of their support in a coalition.

The two parties, the Japan New Party and the New Party Harbinger, hold decisive parliamentary votes in the alliance against the Liberal Democrats, who fell 29 seats below a majority in last Sunday's election. Four other opposition parties backed the reform demand, and the head of the Socialist Party -- the traditional opposition force that fared poorly Sunday -- said he believed his party would go along, too.

Morihiro Hosokawa, leader of the Japan New Party, and Masayoshi Takemura, a Liberal Democrat rebel who founded the New Party Harbinger, reversed statements that they would remain outside any Cabinet formed after the lower house elects a prime minister.

Mr. Hosokawa and Mr. Takemura proposed that Japan's multiseat constituencies convert to a system of single-seat districts, combined with some proportional representation. They demanded that potential coalition partners agree to enact the reform by the end of this year.

In multiseat districts, in which up to six representatives are chosen by voters casting one ballot, winners can be elected with just 20 percent of the votes. Campaigning is costly and often pits members of the same party against one another.

So far, the five parties already in the alliance have been leaning toward choosing former Finance Minister Tsutomu Hata as prime minister.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats set July 30 for their own election to choose a party president to replace Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, who resigned Thursday.

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