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Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2005, 06:31 GMT 07:31 UK
Profile: Junichiro Koizumi
Junichiro Koizumi
Mr Koizumi is unlike any leader Japan has elected before
When Junichiro Koizumi swept into power as Japan's Prime Minister in 2001 he promised to transform the country's political landscape.

With his flowing hair and striking looks, he was a far more colourful politician that the grey suits Japan's electorate was used to.

At first the public appeared to love Mr Koizumi's dashing maverick image. And the prime minister made the most of it, releasing a CD of his favourite Elvis songs and crooning with US movie idol Tom Cruise.

Four years after he was first elected, he is now the longest-serving Japanese prime minister in two decades.

But the public's love affair with him has fluctuated.

His approval ratings were knocked amid disappointment with his progress on economic reform, and his decision, as a major US ally, to send Japanese troops to Iraq.

But his popularity rebounded after he called a snap election in September 2005, and his Liberal Democratic Party was returned to office with its biggest majority in decades.

The poll - called after the Upper House voted out a bill to privatise the country's sprawling postal system - became a de facto referendum on Mr Koizumi's reform programme, especially on the post office.

The reforms had been seen as a potential spur for Japan's still fragile economic recovery, as the postal service sits on 350 trillion yen ($3.2 trillion) in savings and insurance funds.

Controversial change

But the reform idea was not popular with many people. The country's 260,000 postal employees fear for their jobs, and it had been staunchly opposed by conservatives within the LDP, who have traditionally benefited from ties to the state sector.

For some analysts, Mr Koizumi appeared to have little to lose. He had already said he would stand down as the head of the LDP when his term ends in September 2006.

The Japanese prime minister's popularity has not only fluctuated domestically. His annual visits to the Yasukuni shrine, which honours Japan's war dead, including a number of convicted war criminals, has enraged neighbours South Korea and China.

Tensions have also risen recently in connection with a dispute between Japan and China over gas fields and strategic islands.

Koizumi wins postal reform vote
05 Jul 05 |  Asia-Pacific
China envoy cancels Koizumi talks
23 May 05 |  Asia-Pacific
China-Japan ties at '30-year low'
18 Apr 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Cruise croons with Japan's PM
28 Aug 03 |  Showbiz

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