Japan - Leadership



Koizumi appeals to the voting populace because he is considered a maverick rather than a representative of vested interests. As an indicator of Koizumi's intent to reform the political system, his first cabinet included five women ministers and three men who were nonpoliticians. His initial popular support was overwhelming, fueled by his promises to thoroughly reform Japan's economy and political system. All along, however, Koizumi has stated that such reforms will be "painful" in the short-term if the country hopes to return to a pattern of economic growth in the future. He has insisted that the country must experience a deeper recession before it can hope to recover from its current, shallow recession.

Painful or not, his words at first resonated with the populace. Approval ratings among constituents initially ran as high as 90% for the new prime minister, but they gradually sank to around 40% in mid-2003. He has faced opposition from the old guard LDP leadership. Koizumi's talk of dismantling or bypassing LDP machinery to achieve his ends is understandably met with resistance by factions bent on self-preservation.

In July 2002, Koizumi overcame a no-confidence vote in Parliament. The measure was called for by the opposition Democratic Party, in protest of slow progress on the economy. There has been especially strong opposition to two of Koizumi's projects: privacy protection measures and healthcare reform. Opposition politicians and those from within his own party have criticized Koizumi for being ineffective on the financial crisis during his term in office.

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