News

    Heated Japanese Election Campaign Begins

    Campaigning has officially begun in Japan for the September 11 parliamentary election. The election, regarded as the most pivotal in more than 50 years, comes after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi dissolved the lower house of parliament to call for a national mandate on his postal reform plan.

    The election campaign, filled with the type of political intrigue even candidates acknowledge resembles a television drama, began Tuesday in typical fashion with party leaders atop sound trucks appealing for votes.

    Democratic Party head Katsuya Okada, with the sleeves of his blue shirt rolled up, appeals to voters for a chance to carry out pension and social welfare reform. He blasts the prime minister for focusing the election solely on the issue of postal privatization.

    But polls show Mr. Okada's plea is mainly falling on deaf ears. Mr. Koizumi and his Liberal Democratic Party enjoy a two-to-one lead over the Democrats and have picked up endorsements from powerful business groups. In the most recent polls, however, Mr. Okada's party has slightly narrowed the gap.

    Mr. Koizumi, dressed in a pink shirt and white slacks atop his party's truck, tells Tokyo voters postal reform is the prerequisite for all other reform.

    The prime minister, his voice already hoarse, says voters should send a message to legislators that they favor transforming tens of thousands of public employees into private sector workers.

    In a daring political gambit this month, Mr. Koizumi kept his vow to dissolve the lower house of parliament after the less powerful upper house rejected his plan to privatize the public post office.

    Japan Post is more than a mail delivery service - it is the repository of $3 trillion in savings and life insurance policies, which bureaucrats and politicians have traditionally used to fund pork-barrel public works projects.

    Dozens of office holders in Mr. Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party, comfortable with the status quo, helped the opposition block his privatization scheme and then bolted from the LDP before they were expelled. Some are now running for office as members of two hastily formed small parties.

    To defeat them, the prime minister has recruited young, telegenic candidates from outside politics, including a former beauty queen and a wealthy Internet entrepreneur.

    The battle between the grey-haired anti-reformists and the youthful so-called "assassins" has prompted even Mr. Koizumi to characterize himself as one of Japan's old medieval lords intent on neutralizing a band of rebels.

    The campaign's official kick-off did witness one violent incident. Police say a woman critically injured herself by slashing her neck, stomach and wrists with a knife after failing to ram through a security gate in front of Mr. Koizumi's office. Investigators say they found leaflets inside her car criticizing the prime minister.

     


    Steve Herman

    Steve Herman is VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, based at the State Department.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora