Koizumi nears longevity landmark

by Reiji Yoshida

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will become Japan’s fifth-longest serving postwar prime minister Saturday, when he will have served 1,242 days in the nation’s top job.

Fifth spot is currently held by the late Nobusuke Kishi, who resigned in July 1960.

The longest-serving prime minister was Eisaku Sato, who held the job for 2,798 days, followed by Shigeru Yoshida, with 2,616 days, Yasuhiro Nakasone, at 1,806 days and Hayato Ikeda, at 1,575 days.

If Koizumi serves his full term as the head of the Liberal Democratic Party through September 2006 — or 5 1/2 years as prime minister — his administration would be the third-longest in postwar history.

But few believe Koizumi’s administration has a political footing firm enough to promise such longevity.

His popularity among voters, the main driving-force for the lone-wolf politician, fell rapidly this summer after he was criticized over his government’s flawed public pension reform.

His longevity is likely to be further tested by a planned Cabinet reshuffle later this month.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said a major achievement of Koizumi’s administration is an economic recovery without massive public works spending.

Koizumi “has wiped out the illusion that massive fiscal spending is a must to realize an economic recovery,” he said, praising Koizumi’s austere fiscal policy.

He said Koizumi still has “a long way to go” before fully recovering fiscal soundness.

“There are still lots of reforms be carried out,” he said. “We’d like to keep implementing them.”