- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Vows to press for reforms, postal privatization

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi vowed to press on with reforms including privatization of the postal system as he marked his formal reappointment to the post yesterday after a landslide election victory.

Mr. Koizumi’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won a commanding 296 seats out of 480 in the Sept. 11 lower house election, called after upper house party rebels voted with the opposition to kill his postal-reform bills.

He had cast the election as a referendum on the privatization of Japan Post, a financial services giant with $3 trillion in assets.

“I have been promoting structural reform until now, and I want to put it on a solid track,” Mr. Koizumi said at a press conference after the lower house voted for him to remain prime minister. “I want to enact the postal bills in this special session of parliament.”

Ahead of the vote, Cabinet ministers tendered their resignations, but all were later reappointed.

Mr. Koizumi, who has said he has no plans to stay once his tenure as party president expires next September, has said he will quickly re-submit the postal bills and he is expected to reshuffle the Cabinet once they are passed.

The bills are expected to be voted on in October and look certain to pass. Parliament will sit until Nov. 1.

The Sept. 11 landslide victory gave the LDP, which has governed Japan for most of the past half-century, its first majority in an election in 15 years.

The postal reforms were defeated in the upper house, whose members serve fixed terms, but several upper house members who did not support the bills have said they will now back them given the scale of the LDP’s victory.

The LDP governs in a coalition with the Buddhist-backed New Komeito party and Mr. Koizumi has said this will continue despite his overwhelming election win.

A press survey published yesterday underscored the strength of public support for Mr. Koizumi and the hope for reform.

Mr. Koizumi’s support rating rose to 62 percent in a survey by the Yomiuri daily last weekend, up 14.3 percentage points from a similar survey in August. Disapproval of Mr. Koizumi fell to 29.9 percent, down 10.9 points.

Asked what should be the Cabinet’s top priority, 61 percent of respondents said social security reform, followed by 57 percent who wanted measures to improve the economy.

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