Koizumi to step down next year despite of victory

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi says he still plans to step down next year despite his party's landslide election win, raising the question of who will succeed one of the most popular leaders in Japan's history.

Some members of the ruling coalition said Koizumi should stay on after his term as president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) ends in September, 2006 to turn his popularity into votes for the upper house election due in the summer of 2007.

But Koizumi ruled out such a possibility, saying there were many LDP lawmakers keen to succeed him. "I have said I have no intention of staying on (beyond September 2006), and there is no change to that," he said yesterday. "There are a lot of people interested. I want them to start preparing now," reports IOL.

According to Japan Times, with Koizumi projecting postal privatization as the key issue in the election and carefully exploiting media exposure to draw the maximum public attention to his "battle" against ant reformers within the LDP, even other parties were forced to take a position on reforms.

Voter turnout, which had been in a free-fall in most elections in recent years, rebounded thanks to the high degree of public interest. Official figures from the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry showed that 67.51 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in Sunday's election.

Japanese postal reforms, will be delayed by six months, media quoted the postal privatization tsar as telling Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Tuesday.

Koizumi has vowed to press ahead with privatizing the postal system, a financial services giant with $3 trillion in assets, after his party's sweeping win in the Sunday poll which he had styled as a referendum on the issue.

Kyodo news agency quoted government sources as saying Economics Minister Heizo Takenaka, who is also in charge of postal privatization, told Koizumi that the reforms would start on Oct. 1, 2007, half a year later than originally planned, informs Reuters.

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