Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has indicated that he has no intention of trying to pursue a rare third term in office. However, Mr. Koizumi says he remains committed to achieving his economic reform goals before stepping down.
The Japanese cabinet's weekly e-mail magazine quotes the prime minister as saying he wants to complete his reform program during the remaining two-and-a-half years of his term - and then to be "liberated" from his job as soon as possible.
Mr. Koizumi was elected to a second three-year term as leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party last September. The party's rules prevent the party president from seeking a third term - although exceptions have sometimes been made in the past.
There has been mild speculation that Mr. Koizumi might be allowed a few extra months in office due to his popularity, but his comments seem to have put an end to that.
Although Mr. Koizumi's musings about retirement are receiving attention from the international news media, there has been little mention of them domestically. Political analysts say the public and most Japanese reporters already expect the prime minister to leave office when his current term ends in September 2006.
Professor Tomohito Shinoda of the International University of Japan has written several books about the prime minister's office. He says Mr. Koizumi's comments are of more interest to foreigners than to the Japanese. "He said he wants to be relieved from the prime ministership as soon as possible, but many people, I think many foreign journalists, are missing the conditionality: that he is going to complete his reform effort and it would take another two years," says Mr. Shinoda.
There has been talk in the capital that the divorced Mr. Koizumi is tiring of politics and desires to be out of the limelight so he can lead a private life and, possibly, get married again.