Leading article: The art of political escapology

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The Independent Online

It wasn't long ago that his omens looked grim. At home, Japan remained marooned in a decade-long recession. Abroad, his unswerving support for the United States was unpopular, especially once it involved the presence of Japanese troops in Iraq. It seemed that the Japanese might finally be ready to contemplate life without Mr Koizumi or the Liberal Democrat Party. Now those calculations have turned to ashes and it will be the turn of the leader of the opposition Democrats, Katsuya Okada, to taste the bitter gall of defeat.

The secret of Mr Koizumi's resurrection has been simple. He picked on the single issue of the privatisation of the post office and, by presenting it as the litmus test of support for reform in general, positioned himself and his party as the one force for progress in a country for too long dominated by a range of murky vested interests.

Koizumi's victory will offer food for thought to many a struggling leader beyond Japan's borders on the theme of brand identity and the desirability of offering voters a simple choice.

In the meantime, Japan has signed up for several more years under the Liberal Democrats, a party that has governed the country uninterrupted since the end of the Second World War.

Whether the cause of Japanese democracy is best served by that development remains to be seen.