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Japan PM Reaches Out to Masses Via E-Mail

June 21, 2001

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's record popularity is showing no signs of waning and subscribers to his e-mail magazine on Thursday reached close to two million.

The magazine provides the prime minister with a tool to reach out to the public and seek their understanding of his reform policies which while popular now, are expected to be accompanied by severe pain further down the road, including an economic slowdown.

As of Thursday, 1.82 million of Japan's 127 million people had registered to subscribe free of charge to the weekly magazine, government officials said.

The figure is up from roughly one million last Thursday, when its first edition was published. Officials then said that number could already be a world record for a publication of its kind.

"We are surprised and at the same time delighted," Koizumi's spokesman, Kazuhiko Koshikawa, said on Thursday.

"It's a reflection of the public's interest in the Koizumi cabinet and his reform policies," he added.

The second issue of the magazine came on the same day as Koizumi's economic advisers published a report that outlined his reform plans on a wide range of issues, such as fixing banks' bad loan problems and tattered government finances.

Koizumi's allies and rivals both said the prime minister had gained a new weapon with which to reach out to the public, of whom a whopping 80 percent have said they support him -- a record.

"It was a major discovery for us," said top government spokesman, Yasuo Fukuda, referring to how the magazine hits the computer screens of hundreds of thousands of subscribers instantly at the click of a mouse.

An independent lawmaker, Motoo Shiina, said the magazine will provide Koizumi with cover from those who oppose his policies.

"It will probably exceed two million soon -- it's a superb attempt," he told reporters at a media luncheon.

"If successfully maintained, he'll always be able to access directly a group of people who are basically receptive and it will become a very powerful tool to counter attacks from his opponents," Shiina said.

In the report issued late on Thursday, Koizumi's advisers warned of slow growth in the near term as a trade-off for a brighter future.

Some opposition members have attacked the policy as abandoning the socially weak in the name of fair competition.


Koizumi has pledged to take politics to the people, and, besides the publication of the magazine, he is sending cabinet members across the country to attend "Town Meetings" to try to bridge the divide between the government and a public increasingly distanced from politics.

With a couple of key elections drawing near, Koizumi and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are hoping that heightened interest in politics, along with Koizumi's popularity, will work in their favor.

First comes a June 24 election for the Tokyo city assembly, widely seen as a litmus test for parliament's Upper House poll to be held in late July.

In the latest edition of the e-mail magazine titled "Lion Heart" -- a play on Koizumi's tousled mane of wavy hair and his promise of bold reform -- the prime minister mentioned his love of sports and the drama which often accompany the events.

"It's important for one to be moved. It gives one energy," the prime minister said of watching sports.

"I want to carry out politics that will move you all," he said.

By George Nishiyama, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001 iWon, Inc.


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