Prof. Gerald Curtis' Luncheon Talk at FCCJ: "Japan After Upper House Elections"
Takahiro MIYAO (Professor and Head, Japanese Institute of Global Communications, IUJ)
|FCCJ Professional Luncheon:
|Date/Time:||July 30, 2007 (M) 12:30 - 14:00|
|Place:||Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan|
||12:30 - 13:30|
Speaker: Professor Gerald Curtis (Columbia University)
13:30 - 14:00
"Japan After Upper House Elections"
|Organizer:|| Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (http://www.fccj.or.jp)|
On Monday, July 30, there was a timely luncheon talk by Columbia University Professor Gerald Curtis on the implications of the Upper House election held on the previous day. The following is a summary of his talk.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his party, LDP, suffered a historic defeat in the Upper House elections. Why did this happen? The answer lies on three "no"s. First, "no" to Mr. Abe's leadership. He does not have enough experience, or ability in the first place, to be Japan's prime minister and could not handle properly and swiftly such key issues as the massive pension problem and the serious politics & money problem. His inability to deal with crisis situations became so apparent in handling the case of Agriculture Minister Akagi that many voters including some former LDP supporters decided to say "no" to Mr. Abe.
Second, "no" to Prime Minister Abe's policy priorities. Mr. Abe is probably the world's first political leader to promise a "regime change," as he has denied Japan's post-war regime, but without explaining what is to replace the current regime. In any case, Mr. Abe's top priorities have been placed on constitutional reform, national defense, moral education, etc., whereas the Japanese public would not care so much about those ideological issues as "bread & butter" issues like the pension and health care problems. Prime Minister Abe was absorbed by his own thoughts and failed to listen to the public's voice.
Third, "no" to the Koizumi-Abe reform. It has been pointed out that many Japanese supported former Prime Minister Koizumi, because they liked Koizumi himself, rather than his reform policy. Now that Koizumi is gone, they are saying no to the reform policy. Especially, people in rural regions have suffered enough, compared with people in large urban areas, and decided to revolt this time. Mr. Abe never realized this and naively pursued his reform agenda, hurting those who tend to be adversely affected by reform policies. And it happens that such LDP constituencies as agricultural industry groups and construction industry organizations have been undermined by the Koizumi-Abe reform measures, contributing to the LDP's historic defeat.
The worst part of this whole episode is that Mr. Abe is yet to realize what his defeat means. The longer he tries to stay on as prime minister, the worse the situation becomes for him and his party. The Abe administration may not last beyond this November, when the government will try to extend the special anti-terrorism law, but the DPJ has already decided to oppose its extension. However, he could hang on no matter what until the next Lower House election in 2009. In any event, there seems to be much pessimism about the future of Japan, whether politically or economically.