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Japan's Koizumi Survives Confidence Vote - 2002-07-30

The parliament in Japan has defeated a no-confidence motion against Prime Minster Junichiro Koizumi's government. The motion had been viewed as the opposition's symbolic protest against the country's leadership.

The no-confidence motion against the Japanese leader lost in Parliament Tuesday by a vote of 280 to 185. The ruling coalition commands a large majority in the legislature, so a government victory was assured.

Opposition leaders say the motion was a protest against what they see as Prime Minister Koizumi's failure to reform the nation's economy. They also say he has pushed legislation through Parliament without enough debate.

Yukio Hatoyama, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, says the Koizumi government has put on a great show, but that politics is not simply a performance. He adds that Mr. Koizumi's economic reform plans have had no impact.

The no-confidence motion was the first of its kind against Mr. Koizumi. He swept to power in April 2001 and initially was Japan's most popular post-war leader.

But his popularity ratings plunged in early 2002 after he fired his popular foreign minister, Makiko Tanaka. A stagnant economy and near-record unemployment have also damaged his public standing. He hinted Monday that he might reshuffle his cabinet in September to get ready for by-elections in October.

A government spokesman said Tuesday Mr. Koizumi's coalition intends to hold an extra session of Parliament later this year to give the prime minister time to get more reform legislation enacted.

Mr. Koizumi is backing two controversial bills. One would give the Japanese military more authority in case of a foreign attack, while the other would protect people's privacy and, critics say, muzzle the news media.