JIN-281 -- Koizumi Keeps on Keepin' on ... For Now

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Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
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Issue No. 281
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
TOKYO

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CONTENTS

@@ VIEWPOINT: Koizumi Keeps on Keepin' on ... For Now

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@@ VIEWPOINT: Koizumi Keeps on Keepin' on ... For Now

Prime Minister Koizumi vowed to press on with his radical reform program
on Monday night -- despite a fierce backlash against his policies in last
weekend's elections.

Final results showed that the once-popular Koizumi stumbled badly
by sending troops to Iraq and pushing through unpopular pension reforms.
The LDP won two seats fewer in the Upper House elections than its
minimum target of 51.

The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), meanwhile, secured
more votes than the Government and won 50 seats.

Still, Koizumi secured an LDP majority in the House of Councillors
after talks with the leader of the New Komeito party, in which the
two agreed that they would maintain their longstanding coalition.

Political analysts saw the huge gains made by the DPJ as a clear reaction
against both Japan's deployment of troops in Iraq and the passing of a
pensions law seen as flawed, badly explained and iniquitous. Within hours
of the result, Koizumi rejected opposition demands that Japanese troops
be withdrawn from Iraq -- but he conceded that discussions on pension
reform should be held soon to calm public fury on the issue.

Pundits said that the results provided more evidence that Japanese politics
is now moving towards a two-party system, and that the innate Japanese
conservatism that has held the LDP in near uninterrupted power for 50
years is disintegrating fast. The pattern of voting on Sunday was similar
to that in the general election last autumn, at which voters demonstrated
a surprisingly eager taste for a fundamental shake-up of the political
status quo.

Insiders at LDP headquarters said that by far the most disturbing aspect of
Sunday's voting was the number of rural voters casting anti-LDP ballots:
their historical loyalty to the ruling party has stood for decades as
the LDP's most impregnable election-winner.

Beyond the pensions crisis and Iraq, political analysts attributed the
sharp backlash against Koizumi to several factors, mainly that voters may
have simply lost interest in his act. His three years in office is long
by the standards of recent Japanese prime ministers, and voters (not to
mention journalists like us) become impatient when hearing the same
soundbites time and again.

Although Koizumi will remain Prime Minister for now, the weekend's
results sparked speculation that he may not last until late 2006 --
when he had planned to step down anyway.

-- The Editors

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EDITORS
Written and edited by Roland Kelts and
Leo Lewis (editors@japaninc.com)

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