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Koizumi Re-Elected Japan's Prime Minister


A special session of Japan's parliament opened Wednesday and immediately got down to business by voting for a prime minister. As expected, the incumbent, Junichiro Koizumi, easily gained approval in the wake of his party's resounding victory earlier this month in national legislative elections.

Freshmen in Japan's lower house of parliament make a traditional ceremonial self-introduction to their colleagues. Minutes later all the lawmakers line up and make their way to the podium to cast ballots for prime minister.

There has been no doubt since national elections on September 11 who would be victorious.

Speaker of the House Yohei Kono announced Junichiro Koizumi of the Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP, won with 340 votes.

Runner-up Seiji Maehara of the Democratic Party of Japan garnered 114 votes, with other candidates collecting a total of 23 ballots.

With the pomp and circumstance quickly out of the way, the more powerful lower house, now more firmly controlled by the conservative LDP after this month's election, begins the real business of the special 42-day session.

At the top of the prime minister's agenda is passage of his pet project of postal privatization. Its rejection by the upper house last month, after LDP rebels voted with the opposition, prompted Mr. Koizumi to call elections.

With a clear mandate for Mr. Koizumi from the voters, the upper house this time around is expected to allow reform of Japan Post, which holds $3 trillion in savings and life insurance assets.

The conservatives will also back a bill, which is expected to pass, to extend Japan's refueling assistance to the U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan for another year.

Japanese supply ships in the Indian Ocean have been refueling naval vessels from 10 countries since 2001.

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