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Koizumi Has Finger on Political Pulse

Sunday, August 14, 2005 Posted: 08:35 AM JST

Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi stunned his political adversaries when he dissolved the House of Representatives and called for snap elections last Monday. He had promised them that he would do so if the House of Councilors voted down a government bill for the privatization of postal services. But they didn't believe that he had the guts. So they went ahead and voted against reforms that Koizumi hopes will liven up an economy that is only now recovering from more than 10 years of stagnation. It already looks like Koizumi's bold gamble may be paying off.

The decision has polarized opinion among politicians, but it has delighted many voters. Opinion polls by the Japanese media show that over half of the general public supports it. They feel that he is finally honoring his election pledges.

Political commentators have called Koizumi's "stubborn" and the decision to dissolve the House of Representatives "unnecessary". Former prime minister Yoshiro Mori calls him "an eccentric among eccentrics," and says he has given up on his long-time protege. The move, believe observers, will divide the LDP and could even destroy it.

Koizumi however believes that the LDP may need to be destroyed in order to get it back to life. On Saturday he even started advertising in newspapers for reform-minded candidates. “Come on, fellows of reforms!” said advertisements in major newspapers. “We won’t stop reforms.”

According to LDP party officials some 200 would-be candidates have already responded. Koizumi has already started to oust rebel members. Minister Koike, popular and loyal to the Prime Minister, was made a candidate in a Tokyo district held by a major rebel, who was not allowed to run. Koike used to run in Hyogo, some 800 kilometers away from the Japanese capital. All in all, Koizumi wants to replace some 37 rebel members of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

The postal reforms bill narrowly passed the lower house in July. However, it was defeated when 30 LDP members in the upper house of parliament voted against it or failed to show. The lower house has been dissolved 21 times since Japan's democratic constitution was enacted after the end of WWII. The election is set for September 11.

Keywords: national_news

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
Stone Bridge Press

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