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Ruling-party candidates with public appeal whose prime mission is to defeat opponents of the prime minister's postal privatization plan.
The term, meaning "assassin," may have ominous connotations, but it quickly became one of the most popular election keywords in the wake of the dissolution of the House of Representatives in the summer of 2005. The resulting election pitted Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro against rebel lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who voted against a package of bills to privatize Japan's postal services, which the prime minister has been pushing, in the lower house. Koizumi not only has denied party endorsement to those of the anti-postal privatization camp but took steps to drive them out of power.

His strategy to achieve that goal was to send out an army of "assassins" - candidates with public appeal whose specific mission was to defeat the rebels in the September 11 election. In two of the most-watched battles, Environment Minister Koike Yuriko was tapped to run against Kobayashi Koki (of the New Party Nippon), a voracious leader of the anti-privatization camp, while LDP-backed economist Sato Yukari faced off against former Posts and Telecommunications Minister Noda Seiko. In the end, while Koike succeeded in beating Kobayashi, Noda managed to hold off Sato's challenge.

Meanwhile, Kamei Shizuka, a former LDP heavyweight who once served as chairman of the party's Policy Research Council, formed the People's New Party with a number of other rebels soon after the election was called. His designated hit man was Horie Takafumi, the colorful and controversial president of IT firm Livedoor Co. In a close race, Kamei defeated Horie by a narrow margin.

There were 33 former and current LDP members who opposed the postal privatization bills running in single-seat constituencies. The LDP dispatched shikaku for all but one, and 20 of these "assassins" gained seats in the election either in single-seat constituencies or in the proportional representation section of the election. (September 13, 2005)