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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 06:12 GMT 07:12 UK
New election blow for Koizumi
Junichiro Koizumi tries on a Vietnamese traditional hat, Vietnam, 28 April 2002
Mr Koizumi, on a regional tour, did not comment
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was facing new political troubles on Monday after two electoral defeats at the weekend.

Mr Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lost a key by-election and a governor's seat.

The defeat comes a year after Mr Koizumi swept to office with record popularity levels.

Japan's leading daily newspaper on Monday said the elections were a "wake-up call".

"These elections, coming as Koizumi's popularity is falling, call into question the whole appraisal of his government," the Yomiuri Shimbun said in an editorial.

The main election upset was in a district known as an LDP stronghold. Opposition candidate Takahiro Kuroiwa, 35, won an Upper House seat for the north-western prefecture of Niigata.

The area is home to popular former Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka, whose controversial sacking in January triggered a sharp slide in Mr Koizumi's popularity.


The LDP also lost the governorship of Tokushima prefecture, where opposition candidate Tadashi Ota won office after his predecessor was arrested for allegedly taking bribes.

But an LDP candidate did win a by-election in Wakayama, central Japan, for a seat in the Lower House of parliament.

Mr Koizumi, on an overseas trip, declined to comment on Sunday's results, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda was quoted by Japanese media as saying the Niigata loss was "very regrettable."

"We must reflect with humility on many points," he said.

Last month there was another shock for the LDP when an independent candidate was elected mayor of Japan's second-largest city, Yokohama.

Yomiuri's latest poll shows Mr Koizumi's approval rating is down to 51%, well down from highs of about 80% when he took office. Doubts over his commitment to reform, Mrs Tanaka's sacking and a series of scandals in the LDP have all knocked Mr Koizumi's popularity.

Sunday's overall election result has no major impact on the LDP-led coalition's comfortable majority in both houses of parliament.

See also:

26 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi heads for showdown
25 Apr 02 | Media reports
Koizumi at the crossroads
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Koizumi, one year on
23 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Koizumi's first year
01 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Upset win in Japan mayoral vote
08 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Koizumi ally quits politics over scandal
19 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
New scandal blow for Koizumi
26 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Tables turn on Japan's trouble shooter
29 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Axe falls on Japanese foreign minister
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