Koizumi leads the way on election eve
TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made his final campaigning stops on Saturday ahead of a snap election in which he is widely expected to win a new mandate for controversial economic reforms.
As yet another newspaper poll predicted victory for the charismatic leader, who has gambled his career on breaking up Japan’s vast postal system, Koizumi made speeches at train stations, shopping malls and community centres.
“In order to sustain the pension system and to lighten the burden (of tax payers), we must privatize the post office,” he told voters at Fukaya train station northwest of Tokyo. Katsuya Okada, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), also toured the Greater Tokyo area where surveys show many urban voters are still undecided ahead of Sunday’s vote.
The influential Asahi Shimbun became the latest newspaper to indicate a win for Koizumi’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), publishing a survey showing public support for the LDP had risen four points to 36 percent.
Backing for the opposition DPJ edged up from 14 to 16 percent in the survey of 1,031 voters taken late in the week, the daily said. It was more good news for Koizumi, a strong ally of US President George W Bush, who saw the stock market rally to a new four-year high on Friday in an apparent bet on political stability and a win by the market-friendly premier.
Koizumi called the snap election to push forward his plan to privatize the national post office, a move he says would inject new life into the world’s second largest economy and clean up a culture of political patronage.
The ruling LDP has almost exclusively focused on the postal reform during campaigning. Koizumi has also drawn unusual public interest by enlisting a stream of celebrity candidates to knock off dissenters within his own party, making this one of the most closely watched elections in years.
The DPJ has, meanwhile, promised greater reforms, arguing that Koizumi is mistakenly obsessed with the post office which is in effect the world’s biggest bank. Japan Post sits on more than three trillion dollars in assets, with its 25,000 branches used for savings and insurance. It has a cosy relationship with the ruling party and is said to be able to mobilize one million votes. afp