German Chancellor congratulates Japanese PM Junichiro Koizumi on his election victory

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder congratulated Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Monday on his landslide election victory, a win that gave him a mandate to press ahead with economic change.

"The Japanese people have decided in favor of continuing your reform policies," Schroeder, who trails in polls ahead of his own election on Sunday, wrote in a message to Koizumi. He recalled that "we repeatedly established how the similar the challenges are that both our countries face."

"I hope we will soon have an opportunity to continue our exchange of thoughts," Schroeder added.

Koizumi called a snap election after defections within his party last month scuttled a legislative package he had championed for breaking up and privatizing Japan Post. Contentious reform policies also led to Schroeder's move earlier this year to call for elections a year ahead of schedule, the AP informs.

Schroeder told voters he needed a new mandate for his program of limited welfare-state and labor-market reforms, which met with resistance from members of his own Social Democrats, after his party suffered a crushing state election defeat.

The chancellor's party has whittled down a double-digit poll deficit against the Christian Democrats of conservative challenger Angela Merkel, who proposes deeper reforms. Surveys still suggest Merkel is likely to emerge the winner, although she may have to turn to Schroeder's party as a coalition partner.

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