As the four candidates in the Sept. 20 Liberal Democratic Party presidential election delivered policy speeches Tuesday, Shizuka Kamei stepped up his criticism of Mikio Aoki.

Aoki is a party heavyweight who has decided to support Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in the election even though he belongs to a faction hostile to Koizumi.

“It’s a serious problem that a senior leader in the party would do such a thing,” Kamei, a candidate in the election, said in a policy speech before LDP Diet members and supporters.

Kamei’s bashing of Aoki came just before former LDP Secretary General Hiromu Nonaka announced he will not seek another term as a Diet member — a clear protest against Aoki, who belongs to the same faction as Nonaka.

As a condition for supporting Koizumi, Aoki said he wants Cabinet ministers appointed from among Diet members.

But Kamei derided such a condition as a “one-way wish and cannot be a reason” for supporting Koizumi.

Kamei, as well as the two other candidates challenging Koizumi, also criticized the prime minister’s reform drive and reiterated calls for aggressive government spending.

Former transport minister Takao Fujii said the government should “respect Japan’s traditional values” of caring for the weak.

“Japan’s long-held custom and (economic) system would be destroyed if we simply go with foreign standards,” he said.

Kamei, for his part, blamed foreign influence for Japan’s economic woes.

He took a shot at U.S. President George W. Bush, who he says is pushing Japan to accelerate the disposal of bad loans held by banks.

He also blamed Financial Services Minister Heizo Takenaka for pursuing this policy.

“Under President Bush’s order, Mr. Takenaka is taking the lead in putting the Japanese economy in the doldrums,” Kamei said. “You can’t expect firms to pay their debts when the government is making the economy worse.”

Despite the claims by Kamei and Fujii, attempts to stimulate the economy through huge outlays of government spending have only had temporary effects in the past decade.

Fujii, Kamei and Komura failed to address this issue, saying only that they would not spend money on unnecessary public works projects.

On the other hand, Koizumi again emphasized privatization of postal services as a pillar of his policy, but he took it a step further to say that services at post offices should be expanded beyond the current mail delivery, postal savings and insurance.

“I am not talking about abolishing post offices,” Koizumi said. “I am saying, ‘why should the services be limited to three areas?’ “

The prime minister did not say what kind of other financial services the post offices should operate, however, nor did he have anything to say about how privatization should be achieved.

But he made it clear that postal savings and insurance funds are the core money used for unnecessary public works, such as the construction of unprofitable toll roads.

“The core of inefficient spending of taxpayer money is in the postal services, and that’s why I am going to cut into this area,” Koizumi said.

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