Junichiro Koizumi has been re-elected as leader of Japan's dominant Liberal Democratic Party, setting the stage for a general election before the end of the year. Mr. Koizumi easily defeated three challengers for the post, allowing him to remain Japan's prime minister.
Members of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party cheer for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi shortly after his electoral triumph on Saturday. He won the balloting to retain the leadership of the party with a healthy 61 percent majority, securing 399 votes out of 657.
Mr. Koizumi's strong victory will help him consolidate power over party rivals who campaigned against the key elements of his platform: slashing wasteful public spending, privatizing several key state entities and reforming the country's deeply indebted banks.
After the vote, Mr. Koizumi vowed to move forward with structural reforms to strengthen the economy. He also told lawmakers that his party can deliver the reforms that people want.
Mr. Koizumi took office in April 2001 with a promise to reverse the economic woes that have plagued the nation for more than a decade. Unemployment is hovering near a record high, consumer spending is low and deflation is persistent. But there have recently been signs of a fragile recovery, including a rebounding stock market and economic growth of three-point-nine percent in the most recent quarter.
The maverick 61-year-old leader has also pledged to amend Japan's pacifist constitution so the country can participate in non-combat military operations like the one now underway in Iraq.
The party election outcome had been widely anticipated, and Japanese media and political analysts are focusing on whom Mr. Koizumi will choose in a cabinet reshuffle expected in several days.
It is likely that he will change his finance, foreign and education ministers. He is also expected to call new parliamentary elections before the end of the year.