PM Koizumi pledges to act on economy


TOKYO, AFP

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Monday underlined a pledge to push through his reforms aimed at revamping the world’s second largest economy after scoring a solid victory in upper house parliamentary elections.

“I cleared the first difficult hurdle as I might have been forced to resign if we had lost,” Koizumi told reporters a day after voters handed his governing coalition a comfortable win in elections for the House of Councillors.

“This time, the people gave me a supportive base for the fulfillment of reforms proposed by the Koizumi cabinet,” the premier said.

“I would like to treasure this base,” he said. “Cooperating with the three ruling parties, I will carry out reforms as I promised.”

He ruled out a cabinet reshuffle in the wake of the elections.

“Basically, I will continue policy management with the current cabinet members. For the time being, there is no need to reshuffle,” Koizumi said.

The official results were not declared by the Central Election Administration Commission until about 22 hours after polls closed.

Koizumi’s Liberal Democratic Party won 64 seats out of the 121 being contested.

The junior members of Koizumi’s coalition had mixed fortunes, with the Buddhist-backed centrist Komeito party taking 13 seats and the New Conservative Party holding on to just one.

The coalition now holds a total of 138 seats in the secondary chamber which has been downsized to 247 seats from 252 in administrative reform. It needed 124 for a simple majority.

The coalition held 137 seats in the old, larger chamber, and one independent, whose seat was not contested this time, was also aligned with Komeito in voting in parliament.

Analysts agreed Koizumi had cleared his first major test since he took office in April, but warned the toughest challenges still lay ahead.

“The result affirmed his high popularity and is seen as lending the people’s credentials to his administration,” said Nobuo Tomita, honorary professor of politics at Meiji University in Tokyo.

But Eiji Ono, professor emeritus of economic and government policy at Kyoto University, said: “Trapped by prolonged recession and rising unemployment rates, Koizumi may not be able to carry out his reforms.”

Ono added: “Even before the LDP’s resistance groups try to block Koizumi’s reforms, the deteriorating condition of Japan’s economy may put a brake on them (reforms).”

The economy is inching closer towards its fourth recession in a decade with gross domestic product (GDP) in the three months to March shrinking 0.2 percent and most economic data indicating that further contraction occurred in the April-June period.