- Title: JAPAN: JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI IS RE-ELECTED LEADER OF THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY
- Date: 20th September 2003
- Summary: TOKYO, JAPAN (SEPTEMBER 20, 2003) (REUTERS) VARIOUS, EXTERIORS OF LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY HEADQUARTERS
- Embargoed: 5th October 2003 13:00
- Location: TOKYO, JAPAN
- Country: Japan
- Topics: General,Politics,People
- Reuters ID: LVAEACYPTZGGPPEL6Q7Z7I3IY03Y
- Story Text: Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is re-elected as leader of ruling party, enabling him to keep the premiership.
Incumbent Japanese Prime minister Junichiro Koizumi on Saturday (September 20) beat three other contenders in an election to decide the head of the ruling coalition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and therefore the Premiership of the nation.
Victory paves the way for a cabinet shake-up that would provide clues to how hard he plans to push his agenda of reforms aimed at curbing Japan's massive public debt, curing its ailing banks and getting the economy on track for a long-term recovery.
"These presidential elections signify a major turning point in the new era of the Liberal Democratic Party - it's a time that the party becomes the party that truly answers to the hopes of the people. Soon there will be the general election -- the elections of the lower house -- and we've got a job ahead of us; to work to get us the true mandate of the people," Koizumi said following his victory.
Only a few weeks ago, political analysts were saying that deep-seated dislike of Koizumi's painful policies might push rank-and-file LDP members and lawmakers to deprive him of a first round victory and set the stage for possible defeat in a run-off.
But the maverick leader has won the backing of several anti-reform heavyweights, prompting speculation that he has promised to compromise on policy and cabinet appointments.
Koizumi, who sprang to power on a wave of grassroots support in April 2001, has been criticised for being both too slow and too hasty on reform initiatives during his two and a half years in office.
His public support rate, however, remains well above 50 percent, perhaps because few see any appealing alternatives and perhaps because moderate change is what many want.
And challenging the sound-bite savvy Koizumi proved too much of a task from the former LDP policy chief Shizuka Kamei, 66 -- a gravelly-voiced proponent of spend-and-build policies who hired a consultant to polish his image -- as well as former foreign minister Masahiko Komura and former transport minister Takao Fujii, 60.
Koizumi won 399 of 657 votes up for grabs, composed of those of the party's 357 lawmakers plus 300 from 47 local LDP chapters that were allotted based on ballots of rank-and-file LDP members.
His closest challenger, former LDP policy chief Shizuka Kamei, lagged far behind with 139.
After a cabinet reshuffle expected next week, Koizumi is set to call an extra session of parliament from September 26 and then call a snap election for either November 9 or November 16.
An election does not need to be held until mid-2004 but Koizumi is thought keen to take advantage of his popularity and signs of an emerging economic recovery and call the poll sooner.
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