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Koizumi's party wins: exit polls
Latest Updated by 2005-09-12 09:37:01
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EXIT polls showed Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) heading for a landslide victory in elections Sunday (Sep 11th) for parliament's lower house.

Public broadcaster NHK and several other networks said exit polls indicated a big victory for the Liberal Democrats, easily winning a majority of the powerful house's 480 seats.

An official vote count was not expected until Monday morning.

Voter turnout was relatively high, at 50 percent by evening, up 2.65 percentage points from the 2003 election.

Koizumi, who took office in 2001 and is the country's longest-serving prime minister in a decade, has made breaking apart and selling Japan Post's sprawling savings and insurance businesses a centerpiece promise for his Liberal Democratic Party.

The opposition Democratic Party appealed to voters with a pension reform blueprint.

The campaign issues resonate with a public concerned about how it will pay for future retirees among Japan's aging populace and about wasteful government bureaucracies that need to be streamlined to boost a fragile economic recovery.

The LDP held 249 seats in the house when Koizumi, 63, dissolved the chamber Aug. 8. With coalition partner New Komei Party's 34 seats, the government had a comfortable majority. The Democratic Party of Japan, the top opposition group, had 175 seats.

In addition to high turnout at polling stations, absentee ballots also hit a record 8.96 million, or more than 8 percent of Japan's 103.4 million eligible voters.

The overall turnout rate in 2003 was 59.9 percent, the second lowest since 1947.

Aside from pushing pension reform, the Democrats oppose Japan's dispatch of troops to support the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and criticize Koizumi's controversial visits to a Tokyo war shrine.

Koizumi dissolved the lower house and called Sunday's snap elections when his pet project to split up and sell Japan Post's mail, insurance and savings services was torpedoed by the upper house of parliament Aug. 8.

Postal savings have long operated as a slush fund for LDP-rigged pork-barrel projects blamed for waste and corruption. And postmasters, with their strong networks in the countryside, have been a crucial cog in the LDP political machine for decades.

Editor: Wing

By: Source: Szdaily web edition
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