International Press Gives Koizumi One Last Chance
John de Boer (University of Tokyo)
One year has past since Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi came to power and as is customary his performance has been reviewed around the world. Unfortunately for Koizumi, the appraisal did not favor well. Without exception the Prime Minister received low performance ratings in almost every aspect. The only apparent difference between news sources was as to whether they labeled Koizumi's first year in power a complete failure or not.
As compared to the rest, the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) was rather compassionate. They viewed Koizumi as a "blossom that bloomed too soon". The timing wasn't right they said, but nevertheless the FEER insisted that his stint in office hasn't been a "complete failure". While his performance on the economy impressed no one and although he is not thought to be the man who will cure Japan's economic rot and lead it out of its dark tunnel of decay, the FEER confidently claimed that Koizumi's willingness to take clear decisions on controversial issues has made a huge impact on Japanese politics. In their words, "Koizumi's blossom has faded but it was brilliant enough to leave a lasting impression".
In contrast, Howard W. French of the New York Times essentially wrote Koizumi off as a thing of the past. Since Makiko Tanaka was sacked French described that "the public has gone from idolatry to cynicism, each successive week has brought worse news about softening poll numbers, bolder critics and mushrooming scandals". In his estimation, Koizumi was a fad that came and went. He used to be admired but now he is ridiculed.
The BBC's perspective on this issue was similar to that of the FEER. Although, conceding that Koizumi has failed to deliver, David Powers of the BBC insisted that he has "changed the face of Japanese politics and in a way that is going to be very hard - if not impossible - for his enemies to reverse".
Others suggested that Koizumi's fate would be sealed with whether he manages to push forward his plans to deregulate the post office. Charles Scanlon of the BBC commented that Koizumi's proposals to deregulate the post office were meant to send the signal that he has not given up on reforms. However, considering that he has lost a significant portion of his support from the public, the appraisal was that there was little chance that Koizumi would succeed. Reuters also framed the proposed postal reforms as a "make-or- break" deal for Koizumi. Their message was that "Koizumi, is about to be tested".
In addition to these, both the Daily Yomiuri and the Singapore Strait Times weighed in on Koizumi for his lack of tangible results on structural reforms and echoed an overall consensus that Koizumi may not be around for much longer.
Over the past 12 years, Japan has been plagued by both economic and political instability with both no doubt feeding off of each other. Unfortunately, both Japan and the rest of the world seems to have grown accustomed to Japan's revolving door leadership style as they continue to write one Prime Minister off after the next. The general expectation is that Koizumi will be replaced before his full term reaches an end. Nevertheless, the international press thinks Koizumi has one last chance. If he succeeds in implementing postal reforms he just might blossom again.
- David Kruger, "A Political Phenomenon", Far Eastern Economic Review, 2 May 2002
- Charles Scanlon, "Koizumi heads for showdown", BBC, 25 April 2002
- "Koizumi - from last hope to lost hope", Daily Yomiuri, 25 April 2002
- "Japan PM Heads for Make-or-Break Reform Showdown", Reuters, 24 April 2002
- Howard W. French, "Japan's Bright Star is Fading Fast", New York Times, 24 April 2002
- "Koizumi rated poorly for years work", Singapore Straits Times, 23 April 2002
- David Powers, "Koizumi, one year on", 23 April 2002