Japan parliament reelects Koizumi as prime minister

Japan's parliament confirmed Junichiro Koizumi as prime minister on Wednesday special session, clearing the way for him to press on with a reform program including privatization of the postal system after his party's landslide election victory this month.

Koizumi, who first took office in April 2001, was chosen leader by members of the 480-seat lower house, where his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) took a commanding 296 seats in the September 11 general election, ensuring he would remain prime minister.

Koizumi called the election after rebels in his own party voted with the opposition in the upper house to kill bills to privatize Japan Post, a financial services giant with $3 trillion (1.66 trillion pounds) in assets.

He had cast the election as a referendum on postal privatization, which he considers the core of his reform agenda.

Ahead of the parliamentary vote, all members of Koizumi's cabinet tendered their resignations, but all were expected to be reappointed later in the day.

The bills are expected to be voted on in October and look certain to get through. Parliament will sit until November 1.

"Enactment of postal privatization bills is the top item on the agenda," LDP secretary general Tsutomu Takebe told reporters, reports Reuters.

Koizumi said he would keep the same Cabinet until the passage of closely watched postal privatization legislation. Media reports have said he plans to shuffle the Cabinet in November.

Privatization of the postal service was to be the centerpiece of the special session of parliament to start later Wednesday. The government was expected to submit its proposals next week, aiming at a vote in mid-October.

The top opposition Democratic Party of Japan, in disarray following its devastating defeat last week, was expected to come up with its own proposal.

The Koizumi plan would privatize the postal system by 2017. Under the original bills, the 10-year privatization process was slated to start in April 2007, but the political wrangling over the package has forced the government to delay the launch for some six months, and reports say another delay is possible into 2008, informs ABC.

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