The battle for the right to govern Japan is not yet over. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won the first round, but now it must find partners to form a stable government. The party won 239 seats in the 500-seat lower house. To create a strong, stable government it needs at least 265 seats - but 280 would be better. A partnership with the LDP's most recent allies, the Social Democrats (SDP), and the New Party Sakigake is likely. The SDP and Sakigake, both of which suffered major losses in Sunday's poll, will make their decision today. Between them they can bring only 17 seats to the coalition, which would then have 256 lower-house seats. Any government with such a small majority could be unstable. Political commentator Minoru Morita said, at some point, the LDP government would face a crisis, most likely over Japan's huge fiscal debt. A vote of no confidence could follow, forcing the Cabinet to resign or the Prime Minister to call a new election, he said. To avoid this, the LDP needs reliable partners whose policy positions are not too different from its own. The LDP leader, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, said yesterday he would welcome a coalition with the SDP and Sakigake. But he also said he would welcome the participation of other individuals. Analysts are interpreting this as an invitation to members of largest opposition faction, the New Frontier Party (NFP). The NFP not only failed to win government, but lost a few seats. Factional divisions may force some members to defect, leaving it with the choice of joining the LDP or standing alone as a small party. A substantial number in the NFP are former LDP politicians who defected when the LDP split in 1993. Tensions are high between the two groups, and the LDP will have to work very hard to tempt any defectors into its ranks. The other potential coalition tie-up for the LDP is with the newly launched Democrats. The party fell short of its election goal but managed to win 52 seats, the same number it held going into the campaign. The possibility of the Democrats joining an LDP-SDP-Sakigake coalition is fading, however.