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Japanese Prime Minister Headed for Decisive Victory

Japan's governing coalition is headed for a landslide victory, based on exit polling and early results from Sunday's election. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi achieved his goal of having the snap election focus on his pet reform project of postal privatization.

Shouts of 'banzai' are resounding across Japan at campaign headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party.

LDP leader and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi received a huge vote of confidence from Japan's electorate, and it appears possible, after all the votes are counted, that his party could achieve an absolute majority for the first time in 15 years. That would give it solid control of legislative activity in the more powerful Lower House of Parliament.

For the country's largest opposition group, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the results are a crushing setback, almost certain to lead to the resignation of party President Katsuya Okada, who promised to step down if the DPJ lost.

DPJ acting secretary-general Yukio Edano acknowledges his party failed to get the public to warm to its platform, including a call to remove Japanese troops from Iraq.

Mr. Edano says that, while the party enjoyed much grassroots support, the DPJ failed to adequately communicate with much of the mainstream and many swing voters who did not get the party's message.

Professor Jeffrey Kingston at the Tokyo campus of America's Temple University cautions, however, that the results should not be seen as an endorsement of Mr. Koizumi's hawkish policies on defense and constitutional revision, amid cool relations with Japan's Asian neighbors.

"I don't think his victory, in a sense, signifies that the Japanese electorate has shifted to the right. That is his baggage, but I dont think that's why people are voting for him. They're voting for him because they believe his domestic political agenda is more attractive than the opposition," said Mr. Kingston.

The Liberal Democratic Party, which is actually conservative, since being established in 1955 has governed the country, except for a ten-month period.  During the past month, Mr. Koizumi cast out a number of older stalwarts, who opposed the maverick prime minister on his postal reform plan.

The post office, with its trillions of dollars in postal savings and insurance policies, is a lucrative source of funds for public works projects that have benefited rural constituents in traditional LDP strongholds.

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