The Democratic Party of Japan stumbled to another crushing defeat in the Upper House election Sunday, making it clear the opposition party will continue to face huge struggles to regain voters’ trust.

Early election results Sunday indicated the DPJ, which ruled the nation from 2009 until the Lower House poll in December 2012, has been unable to rebuild.

Of the 242 seats in the House of Councilors, 121 were at stake in the ballot, including 44 held by the DPJ. The party fielded 55 candidates, but exit polls by major media groups showed that it would not win even 20 seats — a record low for the party.

“(The outcome) is grave and we have to take this seriously,” said DPJ Secretary-General Goshi Hosono.

“There are various reasons (the party lost so heavily). But one factor is that we haven’t regained the people’s trust. In the general election, we were harshly criticized over how we had governed,” and the electorate’s view of the DPJ hasn’t changed, Hosono conceded.

He also hinted that he is thinking about stepping down to take responsibility for the carnage.

“The secretary-general bears all the responsibility for elections,” he said, adding he will discuss his next move with DPJ President Banri Kaieda.

Kaieda, for his part, indicated separately to reporters that he wishes to retain his position and drag the party back from the brink. That appears a tough feat, given that the DPJ so far has been unable to stop hemorrhaging public support since the general election, in which its House of Representatives majority was eviscerated.

During the Upper House campaign, the party took aim at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies, arguing the package of traditional fiscal stimulus and aggressive monetary easing is causing significantly adverse and “strong side effects.” However, it barely made a dent in the “Abenomics” campaign.

The DPJ retains an additional 42 seats in the chamber that will not be contested until the next Upper House election in 2016.

In last month’s poll for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, the DPJ was given another sound beating by voters and relinquished its status as the largest party in the chamber, winding up in a humiliating fourth place.

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