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Japan ruling party heads for landslide win
Updated: 2005-09-12 06:51

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Darla Jordan said the Bush administration looked forward to continuing to work closely with Koizumi's government and "to move ahead in our close cooperation on a broad range of global, regional and bilateral issues."

Victory was sweet for the popular leader, who called the election after defections within his party scuttled a legislative package he had championed for breaking up and privatizing Japan Post. He kept the campaign focused on his plan, overshadowing the opposition and rejuvenating the image of the LDP from staid ruling party to agent of dynamic change.

Along with delivering mail, Japan Post has savings and insurance programs with $3 trillion in deposits, making it the world's biggest financial institution. Koizumi contends putting those operations in private hands will bring more efficient lending of the cash and produce a bigger boost for the economy, which is the world's second-largest but has stagnated for years.

That seemed to resonate with a public worried that bloated government bureaucracies are sapping economic growth as the aging of the population raises questions about how Japan will pay for future retirees. Postal savings have long been used by the LDP as a slush fund for public works projects blamed for waste and corruption.

Though postal reform was likely to stay firmly at the top of Koizumi's agenda, a landslide would strengthen his hand in pushing other changes, including overhauling the national pension system and trying to rid the LDP of pork-barrel politics and refocus it on policy.

"We needed to hear the people's voice on reform," Koizumi said.

Though risky, his decision to call the elections was shrewd.

With voter attention riveted on his battle against the LDP defectors — he virtually booted all 37 out of the party, and then sent out celebrity candidates to oppose them — the main opposition party found itself on the sidelines and was projected to suffer huge losses.

NHK predicted the centrist Democratic Party would likely end up with 113 seats, a disheartening plunge from its previous 175 seats.

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