Voting has been brisk from the outset in Japan’s general election as the charismatic Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi seeks re-election. Voter turnout is expected to exceed the 59 per cent seen in the last lower house poll two years ago. A victory for Koizumi would allow him to forge ahead with a raft of economic reforms.
Opposition within his own Liberal Democratic Party to his programme prompted this snap election. Public interest has also been stimulated by what the country’s media term as “Koizumi Theatre”. The 63-year-old telegenic veteran has an aptitude for punchy slogans but has a mixed record on implementing change. Despite personal popularity, he has vowed to step down if his coalition fails to win a combined majority. While the opposition Democratic Party led by Katsuya Okada has tried to widen the issues to reform on pensions and childcare, it is the proposed change to the publicly-run Japan Post which is paramount. The premier believes privatisation will boost the economy. The opposition claim it will mean job cuts. There is one other controversial issue – whether to continue the deployment ofJapan’s non-combat troops in Iraq. The opposition say they will withdraw them.