'Assassins' defeat 14 LDP rebels

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2005, 12:00am

Junichiro Koizumi's 'assassins' took out nearly half of their targets on Sunday, defeating 14 Liberal Democratic Party turncoats.

Fifteen of the 36 disenfranchised LDP members who voted against Mr Koizumi's postal privatisation bills last month won their seats back, either standing as independent candidates or after banding together to form minor parties. Four other rebels lost seats to other parties' candidates, while three opted to bow out of politics altogether before the election.

The biggest election day casualty was Koki Kobayashi, who was dismissed from the Tokyo constituency he has held since 1990, defeated by Environment Minister Yuriko Koike.

'We received far more support than we expected and it really shows the desire of the people of Japan for change,' Ms Koike said.

Go Ito, a professor of political science at Meiji University, said: 'The assassins have done better than I expected, but my basic analysis is that their performances were based on that of the party rather than themselves as individual candidates.

'Some of the candidates were very attractive to the voters, such as Ms Koike, but others really only got in because they were standing for the Liberal Democratic Party and its platform of reform. It came down to party over personality.'

Not all the spoilers had it their own way, however, with Shizuka Kamei fending off the challenge of internet entrepreneur Takafumi Horie in the Hiroshima No 6 constituency.

Despite his win, a clearly angry Mr Kamei said the election 'will be devastating for the country', before adding 'this is no longer the LDP that I love'.

A year is a long time in politics, however, and Professor Ito suggested that after Mr Koizumi steps down as party leader next autumn, politicians who fought his postal privatisation are likely to rejoin the party - ironically giving it an even larger majority in the Diet.