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Ex-Japan PM Koizumi Criticizes Incumbent Aso

Posted February. 16, 2009 03:09,   


A sign of conflict is surfacing in Japan`s largest conservative Liberal Democratic Party, as former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi criticized incumbent Prime Minister Taro Aso yesterday.

"I feel more like laughing than getting angry... I am just amazed (at Aso’s comments). We cannot fight an election if there is no trust in the prime minister’s words," said Koizumi, a party lawmaker, at a meeting of parliamentarians promoting privatization of the Japanese postal service at party headquarters in Tokyo.

His comments came a day after Aso showed his willingness to review postal privatization, which was initiated under the Koizumi government.

Aso on Thursday urged a review of the four-company postal privatization system under Japan Post Holdings Co., questioning its efficiency.

Though he later stepped back from his previous stance, Koizumi was apparently greatly offended by Aso’s comment, apparently considering it a challenge to his authority as former prime minister.

Koizumi maintains great influence over lawmakers within the LDP and high approval ratings, but Aso is struggling.

Aso, whose approval ratings have dropped to the 10-percent range, is feared to spawn criticism not only from opposition parties but also from members of ruling coalition parties.

Koizumi’s comment indicates the LDP could suffer an internal conflict in the face of the elections.

What is more devastating to Aso is that Koizumi also disagrees with Aso’s cash handout plan, designed to boost his popularity among the public by giving 12,000 yen (128 dollars) to each resident.

Koizumi said, “I don’t believe the (cash handout package) should be necessarily passed by the lower house in the Diet.

If the lower house refuses to pass the bill, it will likely to be voted down by the upper house where the opposition party has a majority. If the bill is to be passed in the lower house, it should be approved by a two-thirds majority in the lower house.

Passage of a bill is unlikely if more than 16 LDP members disapprove of it.

Experts said Aso cannot maintain his post if the cash handout package fails to pass.

The question is if Aso can attract support from LDP lawmakers, who are influenced by Koizumi.

If pro-Koizumi lawmakers make an all-out effort to go against Aso, including those elected to the lower house election in 2005 after getting a nomination from Koizumi, it will deal a heavy blow to Aso.

Some forecast, however, that Aso still has room to maneuver as Koizumi has expressed his intent to leave politics after the next elections, and Aso holds the nomination for the next elections.

On the surface, the LDP is scrambling to mend fences within its members. Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said Aso reiterated his support for the postal privatization after the Cabinet meeting. Kawamura also appealed to Koizumi’s dedication to the party.

The fate of the apparent internal conflict of the LDP will be determined by the next move of Koizumi, who will return to Japan from an official visit to Russia Feb. 20.