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The House of Councillors on Monday voted down a set of bills to privatize Japan Post in a move Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has threatened would lead to a snap national election.

The Upper House rejected the bills by 125 to 108 votes, as many members of the LDP joined the opposition camp in casting dissent votes against them.

Koizumi said Monday morning he will immediately dissolve the House of Representatives if the bills are voted down, according to Toshikatsu Matsuoka, a lower house member of his Liberal Democratic Party.

Koizumi apparently plans to test the public’s view of his administration in the chamber’s first general election since November 2003 to take place by mid-September.

Alarmed by the possibility of fighting an election in a divided situation, the LDP leadership made last-ditch efforts to change the minds of lawmakers opposed to the bills until the last minute.

The LDP is likely to fight the coming election in a divided situation as the party leadership has said they would not allow member lawmakers voting against the bills to run on its ticket.

When the bills were put to a vote July 5 in the Lower House, 51 of the LDP’s 250 members refused to vote in favor, resulting the bills clearing the powerful chamber by a margin as narrow as five votes.

The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan plans to take advantage of the LDP’s possible division to snatch the reigns of government, which would be the first time for an opposition party to take over power from the LDP or an LDP-led coalition since 1993.

The 176-member DPJ has grown and gained confidence through the previous Lower House general election and the Upper House election in July last year, outpacing the LDP in some aspects such as the votes won under the proportional representation system.

Along with the choice of which of the two major parties to mandate, Koizumi’s reform and diplomatic performances after four years in power are expected to become election issues.

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