Ruling and opposition leaders traveled to various parts of the country Saturday to seek public support ahead of the Sept. 11 general election.

“The biggest question at stake in the election is whether or not to support the privatization of postal services,” Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said in a speech in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture. “I resorted to dissolving the House of Representatives in the belief that a majority of the public would judge that privatization is necessary.”

Koizumi heads the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has been in major turmoil over postal reform, the centerpiece of Koizumi’s reform drive.

Itami is in the Hyogo No. 6 district, from which Environment Minister Koike was elected to the Lower House in 1996 and 2000. In the 2003 general election, she won a seat through the proportional representation block.

In the upcoming election, Koike will face off against Koki Kobayashi, an LDP member critical of Koizumi’s postal privatization policy, in the Tokyo No. 10 district.

Katsuya Okada, leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, stumped in the city of Toyama. Toyama Prefecture is home to former Lower House Speaker Tamisuke Watanuki, who is among senior LDP members who have bolted the party to form a new political group.

Speaking at a news conference, Okada criticized the new party launched by Watanuki and some other LDP dissidents who voted against the postal reform bills.

“It’s LDP B, the other half of the LDP,” Okada said, referring to Kokumin Shinto (the People’s New Party). “The upcoming election is a battle between LDP A and LDP B.”

In the city of Fukui, where an LDP-backed candidate will be running against a postal privatization opponent, Okada urged voters to look beyond that issue.

“There are lots of other important issues,” he said. “By changing (the nation’s leadership), I will carry out reforms that will give us hope for the future, not the empty reforms promised by the prime minister.”

Watanuki, for his part, rapped Koizumi on a Toyama television program, slamming the prime minister’s style of politics as that of a “dictatorship.”

Koizumi dissolved the Lower House on Aug. 8 after his postal privatization bills were voted down in the House of Councilors.

The leaders of New Komeito, the LDP’s coalition partner, and the Social Democratic Party and Japanese Communist Party also took to the streets Saturday.

New Komeito’s Takenori Kanzaki called on voters in the city of Osaka to give the current ruling coalition a mandate, stressing this is the only way to keep reforms on track.

Kazuo Shii of the JCP pointed out at a news conference in the city of Fukuoka that both the LDP and DPJ said they would raise the consumption tax in the future and told voters to say no to higher taxes.

In Nagoya, the SDP’s Mizuho Fukushima criticized the LDP’s choice of candidates to run against the party members who voted against postal privatization, citing them as people who had made millions through corporate takeovers or bureaucrats with the Finance Ministry, which has been cutting down on welfare spending.

LDP fields nurse

The Liberal Democratic Party announced Saturday it will field 46-year-old Toshiko Abe, vice president of the Japanese Nursing Association, in the Okayama No. 3 district where former trade minister Takeo Hiranuma, a postal privatization opponent, is expected to run.

It also said that Yukari Sato, chief economist at Credit Suisse First Boston Securities (Japan) Ltd., will be its candidate in the Gifu No. 1 district, the home turf of another rebel, former posts minister Seiko Noda.

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