Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Tuesday he will set up an advisory panel next month to study one of his pet policies — the introduction of a popular vote for the prime minister.

The 11-member body, made up primarily of scholars, will hold its first meeting July 13. Koizumi appointed Tokyo University President Takeshi Sasaki as head of the panel.

“This panel is expected to hear intellectuals’ opinions and arouse discussions among the general public,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda quoted Koizumi as telling the Cabinet meeting.

The team will meet once a month and is scheduled within a year to come up with a concrete proposal, Fukuda said.

A direct election system would involve a Constitutional amendment, and it is expected that long time would have to pass before a consensus could be reached on the issue.

Adopting a direct election system for the nation’s leader was one of Koizumi’s campaign pledges in his bid for the Liberal Democratic Party presidency in April.

In a parliamentary system, the prime minister is almost always the leader of the largest political party, and the general public is given little say in selecting the nation’s top leader.

The members of the new panel include: Jiro Yamaguchi, a Hokkaido University professor; Kuniko Inoguchi, a Sophia University professor; Bunmei Kubo, a Keio University professor; and Tomoyo Nonaka, a journalist.

Earlier this month, Koizumi launched an advisory panel on another pet policy — the privatization of the state-run post system. That panel will release an interim report as early as late this year.

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