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Koizumi Moves Ahead with Plans for Snap Elections After Dissolving Parliament

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi dissolved the lower house of parliament Friday in preparation for a general election in November. Propping up the world's second largest economy will be the central topic of the campaigning and the election.

Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi is moving ahead with plans for snap elections held on or around November 9. As expected, he dissolved parliament Friday so that campaigning can begin for the 480 seats of the powerful lower house.

Although Mr. Koizumi is not required to call elections until June, analysts say he wants to move fast to capitalize on his landslide re-election last month as leader of the Liberal Democratic Party or LDP. He has already reshuffled his cabinet to consolidate his power base as he tries to push through his stalled reform agenda promised when he took office in April 2001.

LDP Secretary-General Shinzo Abe says the general election is very important to the party.

Mr. Abe says the LDP must win the general election, because that will show which party will lead Japan.

Japan's prolonged economic woes will top the agenda in the upcoming poll. Corporate profits, the stock market and economic growth are all improving, but deflation and high unemployment remain serious problems.

Mr. Koizumi, whose seat will also be contested, took office in April 2001 with a promise to revitalize the economy, but so far his results have been muted.

He is still one of Japan's most popular prime ministers, and his supporters say his reforms will soon have a marked effect.

But Japan's old guard politicians, many of them within his own party, resent his efforts to cut government spending and disagree with his belief that unprofitable companies and banks should be allowed to fail.

On election day, Mr. Koizumi and his LDP will face off against the Democratic Party, Japan's biggest opposition group. It recently united with a smaller party to boost its strength for the upcoming poll.

Naoto Kan is the leader of the democrats.

Mr. Kan says few Japanese are happy with the way things are and says that just one election can change Japan's future.

In parliament's last move before the lower chamber was dissolved Friday, the upper house voted to extend anti-terrorism legislation for two years. The law, which was originally passed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, has allowed Japan's military to provide rear guard support to U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.