Japan is voting in a general election, with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi looking poised for victory. A fresh mandate would enable the premier to press ahead with his programme of economic reforms, notably the privatisation of the post office. Pre-election opinion polls suggested his party has a comfortable lead over the main opposition. With voting now over, a high turnout was reported in a ballot that has shaken up Japan’s political landscape.
It was called after members of Koizumi’s own Liberal Democratic Party defied the premier and helped block his post office privatisation plans.
The decision by the upper house of parliament to reject the reform was a big blow to Koizumi.
He is determined to keep his plans on track.
His focus on transforming Japan Post has been a career-long obsession.
A massive organisation, it has 25,000 branches and employs some 260,000 workers.
It includes a savings bank that is the biggest deposit-taking institution in the world.
Supporters of change say it is needed to boost the economy by putting those deposits in the hands of private investors.
Opponents however say privatisation will mean massive job cuts and poorer postal services.