Japan post reform vote unlikely this week

Tokyo, Aug 1 | Updated: Aug 2 2005, 05:30am hrs
The head of Japans main opposition party said on Monday a vote is unlikely this week on bills to privatise the giant postal system, rejection of which could prompt Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to call a snap election. Koizumi has said rejection of the bills opposed by many in his own ruling party would be tantamount to a vote of no-confidence, a tacit threat to call an election for parliaments powerful lower house. The ruling coalition wants to call a vote in parliaments upper house on Friday, but opposition Democratic Party leader Katsuya Okada said there had not yet been sufficient debate.

It is hard to think that it will happen this week, Okada told a news conference. The ruling coalition has a majority in the upper house and could force a vote if it wanted to, but usually prefers to avoid such direct confrontation. Koizumi has made the legislation to privatise the postal delivery, savings and insurance system, including the worlds biggest bank, the centrepiece of his reform platform.

But many lawmakers in his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), who have long relied on rural postmasters to get out the vote and on the postal savings funds to pay for public works to woo constituencies, are against the plan to split up Japan Post and sell off its shares by 2017. Koizumi lashed out against such opponents in his party, saying they were waging a campaign to oust him from power. I wont give in to efforts to topple the cabinet, and will realise privatisation ... If that is rejected that would be (a vote of) no-confidence, Koizumitold reporters.

Koizumi has vowed to have the bills passed before the parliament session ends on Aug. 13. The legislation was passed by the lower house by a slim margin of five votes last month.