Voters turned out in droves for Sunday’s Lower House election to cast ballots in favor of reforms, hoping the policy steps taken by the victors will strengthen the economy and make people’s lives better.
Voters surveyed Sunday by The Japan Times in Tokyo said they wanted Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to push forward his postal system reforms and voted for candidates in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which he heads. But others said they chose opposition candidates because they can’t count on Koizumi’s version of reform.
In Ota Ward, where neighborhoods are dotted with small companies and factories, people said they focused on the postal privatization issue when they voted.
“I voted for a candidate who is for postal privatization because I believe it will be the first step toward overall reforms,” a 36-year-old businessman said.
“I had long voted for the Democratic Party of Japan, but I voted for the Liberal Democratic Party this time because I want the party to stop bureaucrats from wasting money.”
Asked if he thinks the reforms pitched by Koizumi will help improve the economy, he said: “I want politicians to go forward with the structural reforms first. An economic recovery would follow the reforms.”
A 51-year-old local government official said: “The current postal system is out of date. I use a post office only when I send New Year’s cards. Otherwise, I use e-mail.
“I work for a local government, but I believe privatization will improve services, like the privatized Japan Railway.”
The official said he was voting for the LDP for the first time because he supports postal privatization. He said had been always against the LDP.
Others, however, were critical of Koizumi’s reform drive.
“For people in my generation, Mr. Koizumi is very threatening,” said pensioner Yoshiko Sawa, 70. “He is trying to reform too many things at one time.”
She also said she believes the integrity of the current postal system should be maintained, especially the system’s financial operations.
“I had used megabanks, but I started to use post offices to receive my pension. (Post office clerks) are more friendly than those at banks. I can hardly understand the (need for) postal privatization.”
In front of a shrine to the Togenuki Jizo, in the Sugamo shopping district in Toshima Ward, sentiment was largely in favor of Koizumi.
“Koizumi — who else?” asked Sayuri Ota, 78. “I’m voting for Koizumi, and I’m voting for his party.”
A 61-year-old retired executive hailing from Tochigi Prefecture said, “Personally, I would like to save (DPJ leader Katsuya) Okada if I could, but my one vote isn’t strong enough for that.
“Besides, I don’t like to say this out loud, but I’m in favor of higher (income) taxes, now that I don’t have to pay them. I think the LDP has that right.”
Koizumi’s campaign tactics meanwhile had its critics.
“They manipulated the debate so there’s only one issue to vote on — postal privatization,” said a 72-year-old man who disclosed only his last name, Mori.
“I’ll probably vote for Koizumi, but I don’t think it makes a difference who wins, because it’s the bureaucrats who are running the show.”
In Shibuya Ward, where many young people were enjoying the afternoon, interest in the election seemed to have spread and centered on Koizumi’s postal privatization drive.
Tsuyoshi Kurihara, a 25-year-old salaried worker, was meeting up with friends after casting a ballot near his home in Ibaraki Prefecture.
“I believe Koizumi did a good job advertising his campaign in the media, especially catching the eyes of young people,” Kurihara, who voted for the LDP, said.
“His explanation helped me understand what people’s money was being used for. And I have hope that he will make a change.”
In agreement was a 29-year old housewife from Nerima Ward who said she was for privatizing the postal system.
“I think postal workers have been protected too long by the government,” she said. “Being fired is a reality that most people live with. . . . Taxes should be used on other things, not on post office workers who have no will to improve because of their sense of security.”
On the other hand, a 25-year old housewife from Meguro Ward said she voted for the DPJ because she opposes Koizumi’s postal reform.
“I think it would risk the jobs of too many people,” she said, noting that as a mother, her interest lies more in medical insurance, and she favors hiking taxes to secure a stable future.
Takeshi Nishimura, 29, who has always sided with the DPJ, said he would like to see a change of government.
This election, however, Nishimura said he voted for the LDP candidate in his single-seat district and the DPJ for the proportional representation block because of his disappointment over DPJ leader Okada, who had no detailed counterproposals in response to Koizumi’s policies.
“I hope the government can do something to decrease the budget deficit,” Nishimura said. “Because the (financial) burden will fall directly onto our shoulders if nothing is done about this.”
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