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Japan analyst David Powers
assesses the infleunce of Keizo Obuchi
 real 28k

The BBC's Juliet Hindell
"His common touch marked him out from other Japanese politicians"
 real 28k

Monday, 15 May, 2000, 05:36 GMT 06:36 UK
Tributes to Keizo Obuchi
Obuchi body leaves the hospital
Nurses and doctors pay a last tribute as Mr Obuchi's body leaves the hospital
World leaders have been paying tribute to the former Japanese Prime Minister, Keizo Obuchi, who died on Sunday in Tokyo - six weeks after collapsing with a stroke.

President Bill Clinton said the United States had lost a close friend and praised him as a strong and vibrant leader during a difficult time for Japan.

The Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, praised Mr Obuchi's important contribution to developing closer ties between Beijing and Tokyo.


Keizo Obuchi
Keizo Obuchi in the USA: Improving Japan's image
In Europe, the French President, Jacques Chirac, said Mr Obuchi deserved honour for embarking on a daring programme of reforms.

Mr Obuchi took office in July 1998, when Japan was in deep financial crisis and tried to revitalise the country's economy.

Elections

Meanwhile, Japanese analysts say an outpouring of public sympathy for Mr Obuchi may give Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party - which the former prime minister lead until he suffered the stroke - a boost in upcoming elections.

The elections do not have to be held until 19 October, but current Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori has strongly hinted he will call parliamentary elections on 25 June - Mr Obuchi's birthday.

Observers said the date's symbolism will not be lost on Japanese voters.


Mr Mori
Mr Mori wants to call elections on 25 June
"The Japanese are creatures of emotion, not political animals," Minoru Morita, director of the Morita Research Institute, said.

"A lot of people are going to feel bad about Obuchi, and that's going to be very advantageous for the LDP," he said.

Coma

Mr Obuchi had been in a coma, kept alive only with the help of an artificial respirator since his stroke on 2 April.

Earlier on Sunday it was reported that Mr Obuchi's blood pressure had dropped to a near-critical level, and he was becoming unresponsive to medication to stimulate circulation.

The BBC's Tokyo correspondent Juliet Hindell says Mr Obuchi was distinguished from other Japanese politicians especially by his common touch.

He was skilled at networking and well known for phoning people directly when there were problems to discuss.

He hardly took any rest during his premiership, and his hectic schedule may have contributed to his sudden demise.

Few in Japan were aware that Mr Obuchi's health was in jeopardy, and his stroke came as a shock.

At the time of his stroke Mr Obuchi was struggling to maintain the ruling coalition he had put together as well as dealing with the Mount Usu volcano emergency in northern Japan.

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See also:

14 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Former Japanese PM dies
14 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Obituary: Keizo Obuchi
14 May 00 | Business
Obuchi's economic legacy
09 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan fixes election date
05 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
New Japanese PM chosen
05 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: Yoshiro Mori
04 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan's workaholic culture
04 Apr 00 | Media reports
Media spotlight on Obuchi's illness
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