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LDP candidates, Shimoji score big in Sunday’s Election

Date Posted: 2005-09-17

The voters spoke Sunday, and the message was loud and clear.

A record turnout at the polls brought a landslide victory to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s call for government reform. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has been firmly in control for almost 50 years, racked up 50 additional seats to boost its majority in the 480 member House. It won 296 seats, which together with coalition partner Kometei Party, will have enough votes to override opposition in the largely hostile upper house.

Koizumi’s LDP held 241 seats when he dissolved parliament last month after a stunning defeat of his proposal to privatize the massive Japan postal system. The LDP victory gives the prime minister a strong hand in bringing the measure before parliament again. His chief cabinet secretary says Koizumi will call a special session Sept. 21 to reintroduce the postal privatization package.

Some 1,032,841 Okinawa voters turned out for the 44th Parliamentary Election. Okinawa didn’t quite match the country’s 67.5% turnout, but did increase 3.3% to 62.35%. More women voted than men, 529,571 to 503,270.

The LDP picked up four of the seven seats in Okinawa, but the surprise victor was Mikio Shimoji, an independent who had defected a year ago from the LDP amidst policy disagreements. Shimoji, running in Voting District 1, trounced his three opponents. He ran on a platform calling for Futenma Marine Corps Air Station’s closing, with a shift of aircraft and personnel to Kadena Air Base.

The Socialist Party picked up its lone victory in District 2, with Kantoku Teruya the winner. He campaigned on an anti-American platform, arguing the U.S. must leave Okinawa.

Chiken Kakasu won the District 3 race, representing northern Okinawa voters. The LDP’s Kouzaburo Nishime, 51, won District 4. It also won seats on the nationwide proportional race, with Nakamura Seiji, 74, and Ashitomi Osamu, 49, the victors. Communist Party candidate Seiken Akamine, 57, also a seat.

Okinawa’s election machine bogged down, with glitches in number counting slowing the nationwide tally, dragging it into the early hours Monday. Tomishiro City and Kumigami Village had entered wrong numbers into the computer. Three other mainland Japanese cities also reported malfunctions that kept unofficial final results in limbo until nearly 5am Monday.

In one case in Okinawa, a candidate who thought he’d lost subsequently found out he’d won. Voters were lamenting the loss when the results came after a seven-hour delay, giving him a victory. Voting officials and politicians were both sweating the results as the delays dragged through the early morning hours.

Proponents of Koizumi’s postal reform plan argue privatization would make the Japanese Postal System, with deposits totaling more than $3 trillion, a more effective organization while pumping up the world’s second largest economy. The postal system is currently the world’s largest financial institution.

The crushing defeat for the Democratic Party, which saw its seats decline from 175 down to 113, led to the resignation of Katsuya Okada, the party leader. The Democrats are planning an election Saturday for a new president.

Koizumi’s win through the parliamentary election process means probable good news for the U.S. Koizumi, a longtime American ally, is expected to renew the process of keeping Japanese Self Defense Forces in Iraq. The opposition Democratic Party had argued against the continuation.

The prime minister is also expected to renew reform plans to social security and pension reforms. Koizumi’s indicated he plans to step down next September, but party faithful are already calling for him to reconsider the decision.

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