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Japan: The PM has resigned, long live the PM!

Corruption scandals, false promises and crumbling governing coalitions. These are the main causes that brought approval ratings for the government of Yukio Hatoyama plummeting [en] to 17% by the end of May, ultimately leading the prime minister to resign.

Only few days have passed since he announced this resignation to the nation in a speech aired live on TV — deemed his “best speech” by some — where he declared (and later tweeted) his intent “to restore a clean Democratic Party of Japan.”

The DPJ had risen to power in September of last year after a landslide victory [en] over the dinosaur LDP, the conservative party that had ruled Japan continuously for over 40 years (with one short-lived exception in 1993). After the election of Obama in the U.S. many in Japan had hoped that the time for a ‘change’ had come for Japan, but within a few months criticisms about a lack of political leadership were already surfacing. When the time came to communicate a final decision [en] on the relocation of the American bases in Okinawa, and Hatoyama had to admit that he couldn't do anything, his government fell like a house of cards.

Seiken Koutai 2: The Wrath of Kan, by Curzon at Mutantfrog Travelogue. Photo published with the author's permission.

Brad Rice at Japanator sums up the events that have stirred up Japanese politics over the last few days:

Well, it's finally happened: we've seen yet another Prime Minister fall after less than a year of service. Ever since Junichiro Koizumi, no man seems to be able to stand up to the challenges of managing the Japanese government.

Eight months since sweeping into office under the notion of “hope” and “change” from the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan quickly quagmired itself on issue after issue, the most contentious internationally being the relocation of the Futenma base in Okinawa. Domestically, Hatoyama's reign was cut off at the knees thanks to a number of corruption scandals and the DPJ's shadow leader, Ichiro Ozawa.

Besides the scandals that dulled the image of the Democratic Parties, the first cause for the resignation of Hatoyama is said to be the failure to keep the promise and move the U.S. military bases from Okinawa to another region, or, even outside the country.

Esquire expresses his criticism at the attitude of the Japanese media, who tend to give voice only to words of the discontent without reporting any of the government's positive results, when there are any. The blogger also invites his fellow citizens to take responsibility as voters, because the government that has failed is one they themselves voted for.

なぜならば、安倍政権以降、福田、麻生、鳩山とこういった短期政権としてしまっている最大の原因が、マスメディア、ひいては有権者である我々にあることを自覚すべきと考えるからです。
安倍、福田、麻生、鳩山に対し、我々は十分な時間と猶予を与え、それぞれの政権の行った成果の部分を正当に評価してきたでしょうか。

The media and we, the voters, should not forget that the fall of these short-lived governments — those of Abe, Fukuda, Aso and Hatoyama — is largely our fault.

Have we truly evaluated the results of these governments fairly, and given them — Abe, Fukuda, Aso and Hatoyama — enough time to really prove themselves?

[…]

結局のところ、我々有権者は、「良くも悪くも自分たちが選んだ政権だ」という意識が非常に薄弱です。

The problem is that voters have very little awareness of the fact that for better or worse, these are governments that they chose.

[…]

責任ある有権者になるためには、次の総理が発する発言一つ一つを自分の耳と目で見聞きし、残りの衆議院の任期中にきちんとした成果を出してくれる人物なのかを自分の頭で考えることが必要だと思います。

To become responsible voters, we must watch and listen with our eyes and ears every sentence uttered by the new prime minister. In the period leading up to the next elections in the House of Representatives, we must use our brains and evaluate whether he is someone who can produce concrete results while in office.

Last Minute Advice. By Roberto De Vido. CC License

On Friday, the DPJ elected Naoto Kan, former deputy prime minister and finance minister, as its new representative. Kan will officially become prime minister only after the Emperor proclaims him so at the Imperial Investiture ceremony to be held next week.

Many in Japan remember Kan as the one who, while minister of Health in 1996, exposed a scandal involving HIV-tainted blood that bureaucrats in his own ministry had been attempting to cover up.

Tobias Harris at Observing Japan considers Kan's credentials and character as a political leader:

Given that he is a conviction politician, given his ministerial experience (something that Hatoyama lacked), and given his emphasis on open politics, Kan may be the right man to restore public trust in the DPJ-led government and lead his party to a respectable showing in next month's upper house election. The central task for the Hatoyama government was the restore public faith in government after years of LDP misrule. The central task for a Kan government would be to restore public faith in government after years of LDP misrule — and nine months of Hatoyama misrule. If the public does not trust the government, it is difficult to see how Japan will escape its economic stagnation. As I've said before, if the public cannot trust the government to be honest about its intentions and forthright about how public money is spent, no government will be in a position to ask for something like a consumption tax increase.

At Sora wo Minagara, a blogger recalls Kan's political activity when he was young:

菅さんは、若いときから、政治に関わってきた。その姿勢や良し、彼の手腕に大いに期待したい。
政権交代の、本当の意味が、いよいよ始まるという予感がある。政治が本当に弱者のサイドに眼が行き、国民第一の政治が、どのように、展開されていくのか、また、誰が、どのように、これに挑んでくるのか、よくよく、国民は見抜かなければならない。

Since he was young, Mr. Kan has always committed himself in politics. He has a good attitude, and is very capable. I expect great things from him.

I have the feeling that a change of government, a real one, is about to start. Politics is really shifting its perspective to the weaker side, and the citizens will have to watch carefully to see how this citizen-oriented politics develops, who takes up the challenge and how.

Ikeda Nobuo, professor of economics and popular commentator and blogger, expresses his doubts regarding the election of Kan. Ikeda fears that the influence of politicians such as Ichiro Ozawa [en] , whose involvement in a high-profile scandal has been seen by many as one of the causes of the decline in popularity of the ruling party, will drag the DPJ down into a spiral of failures.

民主党は過去の失敗に学び、小沢氏の影響力を断ち切って自前の政権を構築すべきです。このまま政治が迷走して問題を先送りしていると、財政破綻などの取り返しのつかない事態になります。具体的に誰が望ましいかはわかりませんが、anyone but Kanです。

The DPJ should learn from its mistakes of the past, build its own government and rid itself of Ozawa's influence. If the status quo continues, with politics straying off course and problems endlessly postponed, then we will ultimately find ourselves in a financial catastrophe from which recovery will be impossible. I can't really say who would be the best candidate would be, but [what I can say is]: anyone but Kan.

With Hatoyama's government having fallen only 8 months after its formation, Japanese people, like the blogger at Yukkuri Nonbiri, wonder if they have at last found their Mr. Right with Kan:

菅首相誕生
明るい未来は
来るのだろうか

The Kan Government is born
But I wonder,
will it bring a brighter future?

1 comment

  • […] frustrated Okinawa people made their voice heard. Almost immediately after, the government fell and a new prime minister was elected, letting many voters confused. Amidst political instability and a looming recession, this summer […]

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