On Mr. Koizumi
As we pointed out in our previous media review (4/19), there had been relatively few newspaper articles on Mr. Junichiro Koizumi overseas until he was elected as the president of the ruling LDP. Since then, however, we have been witnessing an explosion of articles about Mr. Koizumi in the foreign media, characterizing him as a political maverick, a radical reformist, etc.
Most of those articles, however, seem to lack a proper perspective in assessing the meaning of his premiership, partly because Mr. Koizumi has been lesser known among major Japanese politicians overseas and partly because there are still so many unknowns and uncertainties surrounding his administration.
The following is among the few articles that display deep understanding of Japan's political economy and also skill in conveying important points about Mr. Koizumi to the reader.
On Mr. Koizumi (from NBR's Japan Forum; 4/25/2001)
By Tomohiko Taniguchi (GLOCOM Fellow)
Koizumi is from Yokosuka, which is part of the reason why he has never failed to support US-Japan alliance. During the press conference he gave to the Foreign Correspondents Club here in Tokyo he stressed that the most important nation for Japan has been, is and continues to be the US.
He stresses also that no recovery will likely happen unless Japan undertakes structural reforms. By the structural reforms he SOUNDED to mean letting near-bankrupt companies go indeed bankrupt. ONLY 3.5 trillion yen according to him will be enough in order for the nation to provide as many as one million laid-off workers with one year worth of stipends. One could therefore assume that Koizumi will be first getting the safety net prepared, and then fixing the banking mess. He seemed pretty much dubious when it came down to his signature policy of breaking up and privatizing the national postal/savings system for an obvious reason to buy hearts and minds of Lib Dem die-hards. Yet he might have felt assured that the opposition against the policy is much less unyielding than what conventional wisdom has long held, given that it was the electoral college in rural and agro-centric areas that massively emerged to support him. Postmasters' power if any did not work in favor of Hashimoto.
Coup de Grace for Keiseikai, coup de foudre for Koizumi himself, yet this last election still remains coup de court [moderator's note: to your French dictionaries, everyone; touche! Mr. Taniguchi --EGG] that is just a private business of the Lib Dems. We will have had a much better picture two days from now until which he will have nominated the big 3 heads of the party and all the cabinet members. He must deliver what he has promised he would do that is to put as many non MP and/or female ministers in place.
This is the first time in Japan's history of parliamentary democracy that dates back to Taisho era that popular votes, sort of, have elected a PM. This could work both ways. One likely scenario is that voters will endorse Koizumi in the upcoming Upper House elections. If Koizumi ultimately fails to deliver his promises then LDP, and by extension almost all the parties with possible exceptions of Komeito and Communists, might have ceased to exist five months from now.
Time is limited. In September Japan will very likely have a trilemma, i.e., weakened yen, steeped yield curve, and yet more waning stock market. Let us see how hot this summer can be.
(From NBR'S JAPAN FORUM: See http://lists.nbr.org/japanforum)