GENERAL ELECTION 2003
Vol. 30, No. 6, December 2003


CHRONOLOGY

September – October 2003

SEPTEMBER

6 Kitano Takeshi wins the award for best director at the sixtieth Venice Film Festival for his movie Zatôichi, the story of a blind swordsman in nineteenth-century Japan.

10 The Cabinet Office releases figures showing that the nation’s gross domestic product grew 1% in real terms in the April—June quarter, which comes to a 3.9% annual growth rate. This is greater than the 0.6% growth originally reported by the Cabinet Office, and it represents the highest growth rate since October—December 2000.

19 Sparked by active buying from foreign investors, the Nikkei average of share prices on the Tokyo Stock Exchange closes above the 11,000 mark for the first time since July 2002.

20 Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichirô easily defeats three challengers and is reelected Liberal Democratic Party president on the first ballot, capturing 54% of the votes cast by LDP Diet members and 68% of the votes from local chapters of the party.

21 In a surprise move following his reelection as LDP president, Koizumi appoints 49-year-old Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Abe Shinzô to the key post of LDP secretary general. Incumbent Secretary General Yamasaki Taku receives the largely ceremonial position of LDP vice-president.

22 Koizumi reshuffles his cabinet, keeping just 6 of the 17 ministers in their previous positions, switching 2 to new portfolios, and adding 9 new members. He resists calls to replace Kawaguchi Yoriko, who stays on as minister for foreign affairs, and Takenaka Heizô, who retains his double assignment as economic and fiscal policy minister and financial services minister.

24 Democratic Party of Japan President Kan Naoto and Liberal Party President Ozawa Ichirô formally sign an agreement to merge their two parties. The smaller Liberal Party will be absorbed into the DPJ, with Kan staying at the helm; the post-merger DPJ will hold 137 of the 480 seats in the House of Representatives and 67 of the 247 seats in the House of Councillors.

26 Speaking to the Diet as it starts a new session, Prime Minister Koizumi announces a plan to begin privatizing the postal services in 2007. The plan will be put together by the fall of 2004, and a bill will be submitted to the Diet in 2005.

29 The Tokyo District Court rules in favor of Chinese plaintiffs and orders the Japanese government to pay ¥190 million in compensation for injuries caused by chemical and conventional munitions left behind in China by the former Japanese Imperial Army at the end of World War II.

OCTOBER

1 Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures begin enforcement of new regulations to curb the emissions of particulate matter from diesel-powered trucks and buses in an effort to fight air pollution. Operators of vehicles that do not meet the new emissions standards will face penalties.

8 Former Foreign Minister Tanaka Makiko announces her intention of running as an independent candidate in the next general election. Tanaka’s membership in the LDP had been suspended in June 2002 and she had resigned her Diet seat in August 2002 in the face of allegations that she had misused official funds, but prosecutors dropped their fraud case against her on September 30 this year.

10 Prime Minister Koizumi dissolves the House of Representatives. A general election is set for November 9, with the official campaign period to begin October 28.

15 The government announces its decision to provide $1.5 billion in grants in 2004 for the reconstruction of Iraq. The aid will focus on meeting Iraqis’ basic needs in such areas as electricity, clean water, and education.

16 Prime Minister Koizumi meets Mexico’s President Vicente Fox in Tokyo, but hopes for conclusion of a free trade agreement between Japan and Mexico on the occasion of the summit are dashed when ministerial talks fail to resolve differences over agricultural trade.

21 In Bangkok for a regional summit, Prime Minister Koizumi and South Korea’s President Roh Moo-hyun meet and agree to start full-fledged negotiations this year on a bilateral free trade agreement, aiming to conclude the talks by 2005.

23 Koizumi calls on Nakasone Yasuhiro (85) and Miyazawa Kiichi (84)–both former prime ministers and current Diet members–to ask them not to run in the upcoming general election under an LDP rule against proportional-representation candidates aged 73 or over. Miyazawa complies, but Nakasone angrily refuses, citing a 1996 pledge to let him stay on for life. On October 27, however, Nakasone relents and announces he will step down.

24 Land, Infrastructure, and Transport Minister Ishihara Nobuteru fires Japan Highway Public Corporation President Fujii Haruho. Fujii, an influential former bureaucrat, was seen as an obstacle to the Koizumi administration’s plan to privatize the highway-related public corporations.

© 2003 Japan Echo Inc.


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