Sun, Jul 06, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Japanese parliament to be dissolved, pundits predict

AP , TOKYO

Expectations are building Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will dissolve parliament in October or November and call snap elections for the more powerful lower house of parliament shortly after, media reports said yesterday.

General elections in the fall would help Koizumi solidify his grip on power by better enabling him to fend off challengers in a September poll for president of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Though popular with voters and regularly awarded with support ratings of about 50 percent in public opinion polls, Koizumi faces strong misgivings about his reform policies within the LDP. He faces as much -- if not more -- of a task winning re-election as party president as leading the LDP to victory in the national poll.

"Koizumi's re-election strategy for party president is that if general elections were near at hand, there wouldn't be any candidates that could compete with him to be the face of the party," the mass circulation Asahi Shimbun said in a front page news analysis.

A clear victory in the race for party president would allow Koizumi to silence his opponents in the LDP and give his reform policies -- such as reforming banks and holding down budget deficits -- the party's official stamp of approval. This would make it easier for him to override foot-dragging and outright opposition to his plans within his party.

But while Koizumi is the clear front-runner, his opponents in the LDP could mount an upset if factions opposed to his policies rally around an alternative candidate.

Four major groups in the LDP opposed to Koizumi are now hurrying to agree on a joint platform to challenge him as talk of snap elections has mounted, the major daily the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

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