Koizumi optimistic, launches campaign

SINGAPORE OCT. 28. The Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, today asked the electorate to support his economic reforms and "stable leadership'', as the campaigning began for the general election scheduled for November 9.

Launching the campaign of the Liberal Democratic Party, the dominant constituent of the ruling coalition, Mr. Koizumi said the thrust of his structural reforms, the centre-piece of his political platform, was that the private sector should be allowed to "do what it can''. The revamp of the Japan Highway Public Corporation and the privatisation of the postal services were some of the priorities, he said.

With thousands flocking to hear him despite heavy showers, Mr. Koizumi started the campaign on a note of optimism. He is leading the LDP for the first time for a general election.

Naoto Kan, leader of the Opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), set out on the campaign trail by calling for votes for a corruption-free administration that would not also be dominated by bureaucrats. A "one-on-one fight with the DPJ'' was predicted by Takenori Kanzaki, leader of the New Komeito Party, another constituent of the LDP-led governing coalition.

Notable among the early campaigners was the Chairman of the Japanese Communist Party, Kazuo Shii, who claimed that politics was being dictated by the U.S. and business leaders.

One of the key issues pertains to the Koizumi Government's plans to send Self-Defence Forces to Iraq.

An estimated 1,159 persons filed applications as candidates on the first day of the campaigning for the 480 seats in the House of Representatives. The LDP is seeking to secure a majority on its own steam for the first time since 1990.

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