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Last Updated: Friday, 24 October, 2003, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Koizumi tackles octogenarian MPs
Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1995
Yasuhiro Nakasone is refusing to retire
The Japanese prime minister has asked two 80-something MPs not to stand in next month's elections in an attempt to spruce up the ruling party's reformist credentials.

The move has sparked a row with one of the veterans, 85-year-old former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who said the request was rude and "a kind of political terrorism".

Mr Nakasone accused incumbent Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of age discrimination.

"If they give the impression that old people aren't needed, then all the old people in the country will oppose them," he said.

Japan's is one of the world's fastest-ageing societies, where age commands respect.

Mr Koizumi, however, wants to give the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) a more youthful complexion. He recently instituted a policy to encourage younger candidates for the LDP's proportional representation seats.

But the BBC's correspondent in Tokyo, Jonathan Head, says that as one of the most respected LDP members, Mr Nakasone assumed that even at the age of 85, he would be standing for parliament next month.

The former prime minister is best known for his friendship with Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

"There is nothing more impolite than this... It was as if he threw a bomb at me all of a sudden," Mr Nakasone told a news conference.

On the other hand, former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, whom Mr Koizumi also asked to step down, agreed to bow out.

Several of the LDP's old guard have already been swept aside in the last cabinet re-shuffle.

Our correspondent says there was a time when the LDP old guard held all the power in the party but times have changed, and Mr Koizumi has already broken many party traditions.

Octogenarian politicians could be the next tradition to go.

Read a selection of your comments below.

Japan's cultural inclination to yield to the elderly serves as deterrence
Yoshi Idesako, USA
Nobody is ever too old to stand for parliament, but in the case of Japan, Koizumi is making progress towards reforming socio-economic institutions. "The best person to do the job should get the job." Japan's cultural inclination to yield to the elderly serves as deterrence in employing future generations of newly educated men and women. This I believe is one of the key problems of Japan's economic stagnation in the last two decades.
Yoshi Idesako, USA

Ageism should not be allowed. If a person is mentally and physically fit to stand for office, if that person has contributed and can contribute significantly to the life of his/her party and can serve the population better than younger politicians, there is no reason to set that person aside.
Stephane Michaud, Japan

While age discrimination should never be encouraged, it is imprudent to have an overwhelming number of elderly members of parliament. Politicians should represent society. Are octogenarians really in touch with the needs of the youth for example?
Kai Murray, USA

Focus on bringing a wealth of various experiences
Alex Stevens, USA
I don't think we should let someone's age decide how much we value their experience, but instead, focus on bringing a wealth of various experiences and ideals to governing bodies.
Alex Stevens, USA

Japan already has too many old men in power with too many lifelong vested interests to protect. Stand aside and let the younger generation into politics to really enact some change and get this country moving again.
Ferg, Japan

In principal, no to both questions. In Japan's case, however, the old guard's iron grip on power has been a major impediment to reform. Nakasone's refusal to step down is seen by many as no more than a determination to preserve his own power.
MAL, Japan

Octogenarians with something to contribute should be allowed to continue. However, one suspects many of these MPs are simply being kept in place on the basis of past achievements, and as a matter of pride rather than because they are adding anything to government.
Tom Westmacott, UK/Japan

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