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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:52 03/09/2007
News Review #94: January 9, 2003

Writer, Tokyo governor, and just maybe prime minister

Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE

"Writer, Tokyo governor, and just maybe prime minister"
(by Kwan Weng Kin) Straits Times


The article introduces a sentiment among people longing for Shintaro Ishihara, the Governor of Tokyo, to seek the office of the Prime Minister.

Mr Ishihara is certainly a strong character. Some genuinely adore him, and others simply despise him. Nonetheless, he has been the buzz-name on the street for quite a while, and recently his name seems to appear in the media more frequently than ever.

Those who like him admire his determined posture in presenting himself, as a commentator as well as the Governor of Tokyo, a metropolis with more than 10 million people and GDP comparable to that of U.K. or Italy.

His remarks as a writer and commentator are backed by his determined intent, well thought out, and presented with the talent of a professional writer, which he has been since his school years. His views may be controversial at times, but often the subjects he digs into are concerns shared with ordinary people. His messages are effectively conveyed to the general public making it difficult simply to ignore them.

One of the reasons for Mr Ishihara's popularity at this juncture lies in the deterioration of approval rate for Mr Koizumi, the Prime Minister. Although Mr Koizumi gained his support of the people significantly upon his surprise visit to North Korea in September, his performance, especially in the field of economic recovery, has discouraged many resulting in an ever-declining popularity rate. As people are beginning to find out that the prolonged recession is making the issue more complex, many are beginning to feel a need for a strong leader, a person with charisma, to have anything whatever might be necessary to break out of the malaise.

The hurdle for Mr Ishihara is not low, though. There are a number of factors that need to be sorted out.

Timing is critical, since the next election for the Governor will be held on April 14. Mr Ishihara will have to make his decision as to whether he will be running well beforehand, where his aiming for re-election would effectively prevent him to challenge for the Prime Ministership.

The Constitution requires the Prime Minster be a member of the diet. The next election, for both upper and lower houses, is scheduled in the summer of 2004, unless the lower house is dissolved by the Prime Minister before the expiration of the tenure. It could be too long a wait until summer of 2004, but a sudden dissolution would not facilitate a careful planning.

The largest obstacle for Mr Ishihara, if he were to challenge, could be for him to find support among the Diet members, as "the Prime Minister shall be designated from among the members of the Diet by a resolution of the Diet." (Article 67 of the Constitution) In the end, it is not the popularity of the people but the support of other Diet members that must be won, where political reasons and tactics are rampant.

It is perhaps not impossible, but undoubtedly a long shot for Mr Ishihara to become the Prime Minister.

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