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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #306: August 15, 2005

Support for Japan PM Highest Since May 2004 - Polls

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Support for Japan PM Highest Since May 2004 - Polls


The article reports that the support for Prime Minister Koizumi has risen even higher after a week since he called for a snap election, which itself at the time raised his popularity, and now it is at the highest point since May 2004. Apparently, people are in favor of Mr Koizumi's behaviors during the past two weeks. A possible explanation is provided here, not as a result of analyses but only as a hypothesis at this point.

Postal reform has been the core of Mr Koizumi's political conviction for decades. His faith at the very basic levels toward capitalism, where private individuals at their own discretion seek their opportunities, has been the thrust for his political reform since he took office. Indeed, he was the Minister for Post and Telecommunications back in 1992 when he openly said that the postal services should be privatized - an astonishing statement for the minister in charge who normally would be expected to protect its operations to retain power.

One of Mr Koizumi's major achievements was to pass a bill for public highway corporations to become private entities. It became the law last year in June, and the highway corporations are scheduled to be privatized by next March. It was a huge political issue last spring, with all the opposers making all sorts of noises. Notably many against the privatization were the members of ruling LDP where Mr Koizumi was serving as the president. The old guards with vested interest within the governing party, with the support of construction companies doing easy business and bureaucrats afraid of losing its grips over affairs, were the largest obstacles for the privatization of highway corporations. The public generally welcomed the privatization - in fact, what frustrated people was the speed and extent of the privatization that it was too slow and insufficient, which was the result of the resistance by the old guards and vested interests.

Although at first glance it seems strange for Mr Koizumi to call a snap election over something as mundane as the Upper House's rejection of his plans to partly privatize the Japanese post office, it has been - for decades - the core of his political agenda of reforming Japan.

Japan's post office is not only a letter delivering service. In fact, it is the world's largest bank. A huge bank, owned by the government, sucking money and funneling it into government spending, is the real function of Japan's "postal services." Aside from risking a state-run economy, which is proven to be inefficient and inoperative everywhere in the world, the funds thus collected has been believed, by many ordinary folks, to be the primary source of funding for the pork barrel infrastructure and construction projects so beloved by politicians.

The people, who learned a lesson last year through highway corporation privatization of the strength of the resistance of vested interest, also skeptical of unhealthy motives driving the opposing politicians, were disillusioned with all the internal quarrels that went on in the political arena during the past months.

There are quite a few people, in fact perhaps most of the people, who are not certain whether postal service privatization is good for them or not. But people have so far favored the straightforward and transparent presentation Mr Koizumi and his staff have made rather than the grumbling of the opposers whose real intentions and for whom they are working are not necessarily clear.

Viewing from still another angle, Japan's people may have really began to appreciate the change of the political system, where acquiring consensus beforehand and behind the door has been the normal procedure is giving way to more transparent methods, where open debates and discussions are the norm.

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