TOKYO -- Japan's prime minister set a Nov. 9 date for national elections and unveiled a 10-point blueprint aimed at reviving the world's second largest economy yesterday after dissolving the lower house of Parliament.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi hopes the plan will bolster his credentials as a reformer as he heads into the first national election since he rose to power in April 2001 on a wave of voter discontent.
"The time has come to test whether people support my policy of reform," Koizumi told reporters. "I believe we will win."
Koizumi sees the election as a chance to solidify the dominance of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP, in Parliament's lower house, the more powerful of its two chambers.
Yesterday, he gave orders to dissolve the lower house, which means all 480 seats, including Koizumi's, will be up for grabs.
With his job at stake and growing resistance to his reforms from within his own party, Koizumi will need to turn his strong public approval ratings -- around 60 percent -- into a major win. Although its members have been some of his toughest critics, Koizumi's party yesterday rallied around his newly released reform manifesto.
The 10-point plan calls for privatizing the post office by 2007 and achieving an economic growth rate of 2 percent in 2006, a healthy clip for a nation struggling through a decade-long slump.
Analysts say it's unlikely that the opposition will dethrone the Liberal Democratic Party. But they predict some voters will defect to the opposition, which has been rejuvenated by the Democratic Party's merger with a smaller opposition party.