News

Strong Turnout Seen as Japanese Turn Out for Decisive Elections

The turnout for Japan's national election Sunday appears to be heavier than in the last elections. News media estimate the turnout will top the nearly 59 percent of qualified voters who voted in 2003. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi called the snap election after lawmakers voted down privatization of Japan's postal system. The latest election surveys show the prime minister's Liberal Democratic Party is expected to do well in the parliamentary election.

Voter interest in Japan is high with one of the biggest turnouts in years predicted.

Pre-election surveys conducted by Japan's major media outlets predicted a big victory for the governing coalition. The coalition is composed of the Liberal Democratic Party, which is actually conservative, and the New Komei Party, which relies on the estimated eight million households of the Soka Gakkai religious sect for unwavering support.

Balloting began early on Friday when residents of Ogami Island - population 53 - went to the polls ahead of an approaching typhoon. Several other towns in the storm's path in the southern part of Okinawan Prefecture were also allowed to vote early on Saturday.

Prime Minister Koizumi, campaigning on Friday, says he called this election so the public could weigh in on his plan to privatize the postal system - which has been rejected by lawmakers.

Mr. Koizumi says postal privatization will pave the way for revitalization of the Japanese economy and national reconstruction.

Japan's post offices function not only as a mail service, but, collectively, as the country's largest savings institution and insurance agency with three-trillion dollars in deposits.

Several senior coalition politicians defected over the issue. But Mr. Koizumi and younger LDP reformers have kept on message that they want to root out inefficiencies in the system, which leave it open to corruption.

The largest opposition force, the Democratic Party of Japan, has struggled to gain popular attention during the campaign, despite criticizing the ruling Liberal Democratic Party as representing the status quo. Democratic Party leader Katsuya Okada tells voters change is not possible under the party that has ruled Japan for decades.

Mr. Okada says the only way to really change Japan is for another party to seize power. He says, the Democratic Party of Japan is the only one that can bring about true reform.

Japan specialist Jeffrey Kingston - who teaches at the Tokyo campus of America's Temple University - says the prime minister has clearly outmaneuvered Mr. Okada.

"A month ago, when the elections were called, everybody was more or less saying that the LDP is going to be on the ropes, Koizumi might resign, they will be lucky to form a coalition government; DPJ probably - they have a good chance to win. Nobody now seems to think they have even a remote chance of winning," he said.

If pre-election surveys prove true that means the Liberal Democratic Party, which has led the country virtually without interruption for more than half a century, will remain at the helm with Mr. Koizumi staying on as prime minister for another 12 months or possibly, as some in his party are now urging, two years.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs