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Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2005, 06:04 GMT 07:04 UK
Koizumi secures landslide victory
Junichiro Koizumi - 11/9/05
Mr Koizumi repeated his intention to step down next year
Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has won an overwhelming victory in lower house elections, according to results published by the media.

His party and its coalition ally will have a key two-thirds majority in the new parliament, Kyodo news agency said.

Mr Koizumi said the voice of the people had been heard and promised to push on with post office reform, which he had put at the heart of his campaign.

He said he still intended to step down in September 2006.

That is when his term as President of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ends, and resigning that post would see him giving up as prime minister as well.

Mr Koizumi called the snap ballot after his plans to privatise Japan's post office were blocked by LDP rebels in parliament's upper house.

(Koizumi's) magic was so successful that it's a little scary
Hiroaki Toya

Override

The prime minister's gamble has paid off handsomely, says the BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo.

And the scale of his achievement should not be underestimated, weeks after many people were writing him off as prime minister, our correspondent says.

Winning a two-thirds majority in the lower house means Mr Koizumi can now override any objection from the upper house and push through reforms.

Speaking at a press conference, Mr Koizumi said his cabinet would remain as it is until after a special session of parliament is convened, probably later this month.

Public broadcaster NHK and Kyodo news agency said Mr Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had 296 seats in the 480-seat lower house.

The LDP and its coalition partner, the New Komeito party, took 327 seats, they said.

KEY NUMBERS
480 lower house seats
241 needed for a majority
LDP wins 296 for the new term
Coalition partner New Komeito has 31 seats
The coalition will control 327 seats, or 68.1%

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the main opposition party, which had 177 seats before the election saw its share reduced to 113.

"I had hoped we would win a majority with our party alone, but we did even better than that," Mr Koizumi said.

Katsuya Okada, head of the DPJ, admitted defeat and said he would take responsibility by resigning.

The prime minister - in office since 2001 - had viewed the election as a referendum on his reform programme, which was blocked by rebels within his own party.

He took the unprecedented step of hand-picking candidates in key seats - dubbed the "assassins" by the media - to try to unseat those rebels.

Our Tokyo correspondent says Mr Koizumi's focus on post office privatisation during the campaign frustrated the Democrats.

They tried to tackle him on issues such as pension reform, his close ties to US President George W Bush and the presence of Japanese troops in Iraq.

Before the election was called, the LDP had 249 seats in the 480-seat lower house and its coalition partner the New Komeito had 34. The DPJ had 175.

Turnout is expected to surpass the 60% recorded at the last general election in 2003.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See Junichiro Koizumi celebrating his win



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