Koizumi's popularity continues to slide
Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE
"Koizumi's popularity continues to slide"
When Mr. Koizumi took office of the Prime Minister in April last year, the support rate was in the range of 70-80% depending on the source. It then hit 90% momentarily and maintained the similar level until late last fall when conflicts among cabinet members, notably involving the Foreign Minister at the time Ms Tanaka, began to leak out.
Since then, scandals and mishandling of events by bureaucrats at Ministries such as Foreign, Agriculture and Fisheries, Health and Education, and Defense Agency, along with a number of misdoings by members of the Parliament have distracted people's confidence in politics generally. And the popularity rate has gradually slid down to the most recent figure, as reported in the article, at 43%. What is significant this time is that the number of people who disapprove supercede those who approve, at the disapproval rate of 46%.
In retrospect, during the first six months in the office, Mr. Koizumi could have done almost anything to realize his political agenda backed by the awesome support rate, and none of the resistance forces could have stopped it. What he was doing at the time, however, was apparently sorting out his objectives and strategies instead of pushing for his agenda. He thus lost the most critical and valuable timing and timeframe to fulfill his political will. By the time he began to present his specific plans, his cabinet had already begun to show hints of cracks, and his opponents prepared to retaliate.
It is often explained that the dismissal of Ms Tanaka was the real turning point for Mr. Koizumi's popularity to slip, and that it turned out to be so because it was the popularity of Ms Tanaka that actually maintained the high support level of the cabinet as a whole. It could be true partly, but as it seems now, the dismissal worked merely as a trigger to bring people back to reality, from the frenzy of hope they had placed on Mr. Koizumi who, by claiming to rid of old ball and chain, won the seat of Prime Minister unexpectedly.
The unexpectedness felt by the people was, unfortunately, shared by Mr. Koizumi, and he was at the time not quite prepared in terms of having a consolidated plan to implement his then still vague political intentions. He thus had to spend his initial days in the office, the critical timing to mold his style and set a direction, to sit and meditate rather than to sell and promote his plans.
It could be that there is a flaw in the parliamentary cabinet system. Under the system, a person could be assigned to take helm of the country suddenly and unexpectedly. It is quite possible, then, by the time the person catches up to become capable of leading the country, either the public would have already lost enthusiasm, or the course of the country would already have been set by some other people.
In any case, while it is not too difficult a task to remove Mr. Koizumi, there seems to be no one to take over the responsibility. People should determine if it would be better to search the successor in haste, or to give Mr. Koizumi a little more time, at least for him to lay out the menu which he has taken a year to prepare.