September 11, 2005

FOURTH TIME FOR THE THIRD WAY:

Koizumi's LDP wins big: Party on track for 300 seats; DPJ gets drubbing (Japan Times, 9/12/05)

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his Liberal Democratic Party cruised to victory Sunday, handily winning a majority in the 480-seat House of Representatives and giving him a mandate to push ahead with postal privatization.

In contrast, the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition force, was battered in the election. It was expected to fall short of the 177 seats it held going into the race, and its leader, Katsuya Okada, indicated later in the evening that he would step down.

"The general public determined that postal privatization was a just argument," Koizumi, who is also LDP president, said Sunday night in declaring victory.

"The results were just as I had expected."

Okada meanwhile bluntly said, "It is only natural that the leader bear responsibility" for an election loss. "I apologize for not being able to bring about a change of government."

As of 1:15 a.m. Monday, the LDP had won 290 seats, while the DPJ had secured 107.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi places a paper rose above the name of a successful Liberal Democratic Party candidate at LDP headquarters in Tokyo on Sunday.

Together with its coalition partner, New Komeito, which had won 30 seats, the ruling coalition easily cleared the 241 seats needed to hold a majority in the Lower House.

By 1:15 a.m., 13 postal rebels had won back their seats.

By single-handedly securing more than 269 seats -- the number needed to ensure smooth Diet sailing -- the LDP will have a majority in all Lower House committees even after it takes all chairman posts.

The last time the LDP won a single-handed majority in the Lower House was in the February 1990 election. It had never won a majority of the seats since the current electoral system centering on single-seat districts was introduced in 1996.


Mr. Koizumi joins Tony Blair, George W. Bush, and John Howard in sending a once meaningful opposition off into political oblivion by proposing free market reforms to the traditional welfare state.


MORE:
Japan’s voters back Koizumi (The Economist, Sep 12th 2005)

EVERYBODY knows what is going to happen next. Junichiro Koizumi told the public repeatedly and emphatically that he wanted the election on Sunday September 11th to be about one issue: Japan Post. This giant receives subsidised postal-savings deposits and life-insurance premiums from tens of millions of Japanese citizens through its 24,700 branches, and thus controls a staggering ¥330 trillion ($3 trillion) in household financial assets. Mr Koizumi, the prime minister, wants to privatise it, and billed this election as a referendum on his idea. Japan’s voters have now given him overwhelming support, electing members of his two-party coalition to 327 of parliament’s 480 seats. Some time this autumn, the new parliament is expected to approve Mr Koizumi’s most cherished reform.

Japan’s stockmarket leapt on the news. The Nikkei rose by 1.6% on Monday, adding to the 7% that it had gained in the month leading up to the vote as the economic outlook grew brighter and as Mr Koizumi’s lead in opinion polls widened. Investors also applauded revised economic figures that were released on the same day, showing that GDP grew at an annual rate of 3.3%, more than previously announced, in the second quarter.

The election victory was a stunning vindication for Mr Koizumi, who clearly knew what he was doing when he decided to dissolve parliament’s lower house in early August.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 11, 2005 11:35 PM
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