Japan: Koizumi Relishes Resounding Election Victory; Delays Cabinet Reshuffle

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, enjoying his party's landslide victory in Sunday's parliamentary elections, announced Monday he will not immediately shuffle his Cabinet. He says that will wait until after a Parliamentary session designed to re-elect him and approve his major reform plan.

Election officials Monday announced that the Liberal Democratic Party had captured nearly 300 seats, making it the second best performance of the conservative party's 50-year history.

For Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi the results mean that his party will have absolute control of the lower house and the ability to over-ride any bills rejected by the upper house.

The results are far better than anyone predicted a month ago. That is when Mr. Koizumi called snap elections to seek a mandate after the upper house defeated his plan to privatize the postal system, which is also the world's biggest bank.

Mr. Koizumi told reporters Monday he will call Parliament into session soon to take up reform.

He said the elections give his party a clear mandate to proceed with postal privatization. But the prime minister rejects using the election as a reason to stay in office longer, noting voters Sunday made their judgment on the assumption his tenure will end a year from now.

Mr. Koizumi says any changes to party leadership and the Cabinet will not take place until after the special Parliamentary session is held. The lawmakers will be tasked with approving postal reform legislation and electing a prime minister - certain to be Mr. Koizumi.

The leader of the opposition Democrat Party of Japan, Katsuya Okada, announced he is resigning to take responsibility for the resounding electoral defeat. The opposition only kept 113 of the 175 seats it held in the 480-member lower house.


Steve Herman

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

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