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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:52 03/09/2007
News Review #87: December 5, 2002

Japan Reform Hopes Fade as Political Murk Deepens

Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE

"Japan Reform Hopes Fade as Political Murk Deepens"
by Reuters (New York Times)


The article is stale in one respect, that where it predicts the leader of the opposing party might resign has already become a fact. But it is still a well-written compact summary on the confusion of Japan's political scene.

There are 60% of people who support Mr Koizumi, but only 20% support the Liberal Democratic Party, which he leads. When Mr Koizumi became the Prime Minister nineteen months ago, it surprised, among others, many of the members of LDP who elected him to take the post. It was a result of delicate political balance, and an overwhelming popularity among the people who were tired of old guards playing musical chairs.

Mr Koizumi, knowing where his popularity is derived from, has often taken confrontational position against the majority of LDP. This, whether out of his political belief or his tactics, has worked well, and he enjoys the high level of popularity rarely seen in Japan's politics. In fact, every time heavyweight politicians in LDP denounce the Prime Minister or his policies, the support rate for Mr Koizumi goes up. And the members of LDP, not necessarily satisfied with his behaviors, have had to go along as the Prime Minister's popularity has been proven to provide LDP an effective advantage in various elections.

The article predicts, and has since become a reality, the resignation of Mr Hatoyama as the leader of the largest opposition party, the Democratic Party, to become effective next week. It could, however, only be described as a shameful event for the party, irrelevant of Mr Hatoyama's qualifications as a leader. The Democratic Party went through their election procedures to select their leader in September. And just two months later, without any apparent reason, at least any that was discernable from outside, the leader was dragged down from the position. This could only alienate the people even further away from the Democratic Party, where the support rate was already dwindling to around three percent before the incident.

Now that the leading opposition, the Democratic Party, has kicked out its leader without apparent consideration of the future of their party or the heading of the country, it is hard to imagine they could regain the support of the people no matter who would be chosen as the next leader.

It seems, therefore, Mr Koizumi would stay in power for another while. He has made certain progress in political agenda many people evaluate such as the relation with North Korea. His stubbornness could be effective in reforming public entities such as the Highway Corporation, where many people suspect the framework is functioning as a mechanism for pork barreling under the disguise of legitimate infrastructure servicing.

A concern which has become fairly evident, however, is that Mr Koizumi may not have the capability of tackling the depressed economy in an effective manner. It is true that there could be no person who could have every capability to handle every affair, but a Prime Minister cannot get away from the responsibility and must assign the right people to cope with various issues. In this context there have been some very viable questions raised on certain economic and financial policies he and his subordinates have formulated, he is adopting.

It has become a consensus through the years of experience worldwide that a sound opposition is vital to maintain a modern democracy. A healthy opposition is not only a potential for the people to choose as an alternative leader, it is expected to function as a watchdog in normal times so that those in power would not go off course, out of the mandate vested by the people. The chaos within the leading opposition is a grave challenge to the political health of the country, and to this regard the behaviors of Democratic Party are to be condemned.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications