TOKYO - Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi scored a crushing victory yesterday in legislative elections, giving powerful momentum to his campaign to slim down his nation's bureaucracy.
Supporters of Koizumi, a strong U.S. ally, won at least 294 seats in the 480-seat lower house of the Diet, or parliament, according to a vote count tallied early today by the state television network.
The huge victory, labeled by one opposition politician as "Typhoon Koizumi," gave the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party enough seats in the lower house to govern without a coalition partner for the first time in 15 years.
"The result was more than I expected," Koizumi said. "The Japanese people said they wanted to keep reform, not stop reform."
The victory followed a purge of 37 anti-reform lawmakers in the ruling party and allowed Koizumi to re-engineer the party as a force for change despite five decades of nearly uninterrupted rule. The election marked a staggering setback to the largest opposition force, the Democratic Party of Japan, which garnered 113 seats.
Koizumi will forge ahead with a plan to privatize the huge postal system, which also sells insurance and handles savings accounts, controlling assets of more than $3 trillion.
Koizumi called the election after a plan to privatize the postal system was defeated Aug. 8 in the upper house of the Diet.