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Koizumi wins party leadership re-election
( 2003-09-20 14:26) (Agencies)

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was re-elected president of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Saturday, soundly defeating three challengers with a promise to stand by his efforts to revive this country's sputtering economy.

Koizumi won a comfortable majority of the 657 ballots ! 357 cast by the LDP's members of Parliament and 300 calculated to reflect the votes of the party's 1.4 million rank-and-file members.

Koizumi, who has held the post for 2 1/2 years, had been strongly favored to defeat the three lawmakers running against him ! Shizuka Kamei, a senior party executive; Takao Fujii, a former transportation minister; and Masahiko Komura, a former foreign minister.

With the presidential election outcome widely expected, attention in Japan had already shifted to whom Koizumi will name to his new Cabinet in a shakeup likely to come in the next few days.

The popular premier is expected to replace his finance minister, who is in poor health, and the foreign and education ministers.

He reportedly plans to keep his top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, and his economic policy minister, Heizo Takenaka, whose crackdown on banks has been criticized by lawmakers but lauded by foreign investors.

Koizumi's popularity with the general public has drawn many LDP lawmakers to his camp, particularly as the party prepares for parliamentary elections in the coming months.

This year's LDP election focused on Koizumi's policies to breathe life into the economy, which has struggled through a slowdown for most of the past decade.

Koizumi has pushed for deregulation and privatization of such government institutions as the Post Office, and stood by government spending limits.

Supporters say he needs more time to complete his reforms, and point to government figures released last week showing that the economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.9 percent in the most recent quarter ! faster than the 2.4 percent posted by the United States.

His challengers say only more public spending ! and a freeze on some of Koizumi's reforms ! can ensure a recovery.

The Liberal Democratic Party ! which despite its name reflects the conservative mainstream and is closely allied with big business and the agricultural sector ! has controlled the reins of government in Japan throughout most of the post-World War II era.

Reflecting a recent change in the party's bylaws, Koizumi was re-elected to a three-year term. The party president usually serves concurrently as prime minister because of the LDP's dominant role in Parliament.

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