Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will be re-elected as president of the Liberal Democratic Party today, allowing him to stay in office for two more years.

Koizumi’s re-election was assured Thursday evening when no contenders filed their candidacies ahead of the deadline, according to LDP headquarters.

The uncontested race is widely seen as a mandate from the party elders, with Koizumi’s charisma and popularity having successfully led the LDP to victory in the July 29 House of Councilors election.

Yet the maverick prime minister is likely to face mounting pressures in the coming months — from within and outside the party — as many controversial domestic and international issues remain unresolved.

The extension of his term will be approved without a vote at the LDP’s general assembly this afternoon, which will be attended by all the party’s Diet members.

All the major LDP factions had agreed by Wednesday that they will support Koizumi’s re-election and decided not to field any other candidates.

The largest faction, which is led by former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and is widely dubbed as a typical “resistance force” to Koizumi’s reform initiatives, was quick to throw its support behind Koizumi on this occasion.

Koizumi, who rode on a wave of grassroots support from rank-and-file party members nationwide, became the LDP’s president and the nation’s prime minister in April by beating his rival candidates, one of whom was Hashimoto.

Having succeeded the unpopular Yoshiro Mori, the prime minister who took office following the death of Keizo Obuchi, Koizumi’s current term ends in September when the two-year term won by Obuchi in 1999 expires.

Koizumi’s new two-year term begins October 1 and runs through September 30, 2003.

In Japan’s precarious political arena, however, an extended term for the most powerful party’s presidency does not necessarily entail that he or she will stay in office for that period.

As pressure from Koizumi’s LDP colleagues is expected to mount later this year over his plan to review Tokyo’s budget-allocation system, which traditionally favors public works projects and semi-public firms, some observers believe Koizumi may dissolve the powerful Lower House soon and call for a snap election to register public’s judgment over his reforms.

Should there be a general election, Koizumi’s reign could be in jeopardy again.

Some observers predict that the LDP’s old guard may try to move up the party’s next presidential election, or that Koizumi may abandon the vested interests-shackled LDP and seek partnerships with opposition members.

On the diplomatic front, Koizumi’s biggest challenge so far comes on August 15 when the prime minister plans to visit Yasukuni Shrine, which is dedicated to the nation’s war dead, including seven Class-A war criminals.

If he carries the visit through, the event will no doubt worsen Tokyo’s relations with Beijing and Seoul, with the latter already furious over a new history textbook recently published in Japan.

On Thursday, Koizumi told reporters that he will make the final decision over whether to make the controversial visit after meeting on Friday with the secretaries general of the three ruling coalition parties — the LDP, New Komeito, and the New Conservative Party — Friday evening.

Domestically, Koizumi and his Cabinet are expected to play a heated tug-of-war with fellow LDP lawmakers backed by particular interest groups as the December budget-compilation deadline approaches.

Koizumi has pledged to cut 3 trillion yen in the fiscal 2002 state budget from the Finance Ministry’s projection.

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