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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 August 2005, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK
Japanese press urges bold reforms
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
Junichiro Koizumi staked his reputation on the postal reform bill
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's decision to dissolve the lower house of parliament and call an early election following the rejection in the upper house of his postal reform plan has sparked heated debate in the country's editorials.

Many commentators look beyond the specifics of the postal vote and assess the state of the nation sixty years after the end of World War II.

Several papers call on major political parties to use the opportunity and modernize what they see as the country's outdated bi-cameral system.

Japan's biggest daily, Yomiuri Shimbun, says that although the postal privatization proposals may have been "imperfect", they were essential for economic and social reform.

The dissolution can only delay the realization of Koizumi's long-held wish of privatizing the postal services.
Yomiuri Shimbun

But it takes issue with Mr Koizumi's decision to call an election, arguing that "the reasoning behind the political drama that sparked dissolution of the lower house is difficult to comprehend".

It was "very unusual compared with post-war parliamentary practice. We must ask whether he has violated the accepted process of constitutional government.

"The dissolution can only delay the realization of Koizumi's long-held wish of privatizing the postal services," concludes Yomiuri Shimbun.

Voters preference

Leading business daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun believes that dissolving the lower house made more sense than having the cabinet resign en masse.

"Various polls have shown that a majority of voters favoured dissolving the lower house if the postal privatization bills did not pass the upper house."

It calls on politicians to "seriously consider revising the current bi-cameral system".

The second-largest daily, Asahi Shimbun, believes the prime minister was right to call an election, having turned the postal vote into a vote of confidence in his government.

However, it is uncomfortable that "the lower house dissolution was carried out although the upper house voted down the postal bills".

The LDP is on the verge of breaking-down
Tokyo Shimbun and Asahi Shimbun

Several papers examine the state of the ruling party and consider the prime minister's political future.

Mr Koizumi is staking his future on a political gamble, Yomiuri Shimbun says. With his Liberal Democrat Party (LDP) divided over the postal privatization, the prime minister might find himself in a totally different political landscape after the 11 September election.

The party - which has seen a recent decline in popularity - may be facing the biggest crisis since its founding 50 years ago, it argues.

Tokyo Shimbun agrees that the LDP is on the verge of "breaking-down".

Asahi Shimbun points to the conduct of 17 LDP rebel MPs who failed to honour their electoral pledges and support the bill, and urges Mr Koizumi not to allow them to run in the next election.

It also calls on the opposition Democratic Party (DPJ) to come up with alternative policies which would give the voters "a choice other than the LDP".

Rebels under fire

But Sankei Shimbun believes the DPJ has failed to present a viable counter-proposal to the postal privatisation issue and is hardly the party to "carry out essential structural reforms".

It says the election will be an opportunity for the LDP to transform itself into a true reform-minded party by removing the rebels who opposed the privatization.

Mainichi Shimbun is equally unhappy about the rebel MPs who "merely took advantage of Koizumi's popularity to get themselves elected". They had "turned against him when it came to a showdown".

"This is tantamount to belittling the voters," the daily said. "If the latest developments lead to correcting political distortions within the LDP, it would not be such a bad thing."

Several papers also say the postal privatization issue should not be allowed to overshadow other election issues.

Although the poll is likely to be "a national referendum on the postal privatization issue", believes Nihon Keizai Shimbum, other issues such as fiscal and tax reforms, constitutional reform and relations with China and North Korea should also be on the agenda.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.

The reaction in parliament as Koizumi's plans are rejected

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