Comfortably ahead in the opinion polls on the eve of a general election, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi looks set to stay in power in Japan. A resounding victory would allow him to forge ahead with reforms, starting with the privatisation of the post office.
Opposition to the move from within his own Liberal Democratic Party prompted him to call the snap election in the first place. He has staked his political career on privatising Japan Post and is keen to press ahead with change.
The premier believes it will give a major boost to the economy.Opponents say it will mean massive job cuts. Voter surveys show the main opposition Democratic Party has failed to make a big impression.
Its leader Katsuya Okada is also proposing change, pledging reform of the country’s pension and childcare systems.
Japan’s Asian neighbours will be closely watching Sunday’s vote.
China and South Korea have been angered by Koizumi’s visits to a shrine for war dead in Tokyo – a place leaders in Beijing and Seoul say glorifies Japan’s past militarism.
Inside Japan, one of the election issues is the country’s deployment of non-combat troops in Iraq.
The opposition Democrats have pledged to withdraw them by the end of the year.