Most of the declared candidates running in the Sept. 11 general election say social welfare reform should be the policy priority after the poll, according to a Kyodo News survey released Monday.

The survey shows that 87.5 percent of the candidates say priority should be placed on social welfare reform, including the pension and medical systems.

The poll was based on responses from 649 of the 1,069 people who had announced their intention to run in the House of Representatives election as of Sunday.

Only 13.7 percent of the candidates say the priority is privatizing the postal system — Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s top goal.

Measures to boost the economy came in second, with 60.9 percent, followed by rebuilding Japan’s finances at 33.7 percent, and diplomacy and security policy at 33 percent.

The responding candidates included 170 expected to be backed by the Liberal Democratic Party, 196 by the Democratic Party of Japan, 25 by New Komeito and 219 by the Japanese Communist Party. Postal privatization had the support of 32 percent of the respondents, including all the LDP and New Komeito candidates, while 63.3 percent said they opposed this option.

Among those who plan to run on the DPJ ticket, 159 are against postal privatization and 27 said they are undecided.

Among the proponents of postal privatization, 79.6 percent said the policy is a pillar of administrative and fiscal reform, and it will help promote social development and the economy.

Of those who oppose postal reform, 46.4 percent said they are concerned rural post offices may be abolished, while 19.4 percent said the central government should be involved in running the postal system.

Of 19 former LDP Lower House members the party refused to endorse as candidates because they voted against postal privatization bills, two said they now favor the policy.

As for the structure of government after the election, 29.8 percent said the DPJ should come into power on its own, while 28.2 percent favored a continued coalition of the LDP and New Komeito.

Only 4.1 percent favored an exclusive LDP government.

On revising the Constitution, 156 of the LDP candidates and 109 of the DPJ candidates said they favor revising it, including the war-renouncing Article 9, but 45 DPJ candidates and most New Komeito candidates only favor partially revising the Constitution, and want Article 9 left alone.

As for Koizumi’s contentious visits to Tokyo’s war-related Yasukuni Shrine, 94 LDP candidates support his visits, while 40 said they oppose the visits or do not want the prime minister to visit the shrine at this time.

Early LDP support

Support for the Liberal Democratic Party is currently twice that for the Democratic Party of Japan ahead of the Sept. 11 general election, while the approval rate for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s Cabinet edged up to 49.1 percent, according to a Kyodo News survey released Monday.

Asked which party they would vote for in the proportional representation sector, 31.5 percent of respondents chose the LDP compared with 15.2 percent for the main opposition DPJ. But the situation may change in the three-week runup to the House of Representatives election as 41.2 percent said they were undecided.

The support rate for the Cabinet gained 1.8 percentage points from an Aug. 9 telephone survey immediately after the prime minister dissolved the Lower House the day before and called the election, according to the first round of Kyodo’s pre-election telephone polls, conducted over the last weekend.

Some 85.1 percent of the 1,284 respondents expressed interest in the election. This was 13.0 points higher than in the first round survey for the previous general election in November 2003.

As for the main issue of concern for voters, “social welfare policies” such as pensions and medical services topped the list with 35.8 percent, reflecting concerns over Japan’s rapidly graying population.

SDP lists Doi low

Social Democratic Party executives on Monday endorsed a decision by its Osaka chapter to put former SDP leader Takako Doi, a one-time speaker of the House of Representatives, in the fifth slot on its Kinki proportional-representation candidate list in the Sept. 11 general election.

The decision would put Doi, 76, in a supporting role to help the party’s junior members win seats. She has only a slim chance of actually returning to the Diet, as she will not run in a single-seat district and the SDP won only one seat through the proportional representation portion of the ballot in the November 2003 election.

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