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No.2
Politics, No.2  Sept. 27, 2010

THE DPJ'S UNCHARTED JOURNEY

Looking at the Democratic Party of Japan these days, I cannot help feeling that it has headed out to sea on a journey without a chart. When the DPJ took over the reins of government from the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party last autumn, it had a chart of sorts, namely, the manifesto it set forth as the basis for its campaign for the August 2009 House of Representatives election, from which it emerged victorious. But once the administration of Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio came into power, it discarded the planks of this platform one after another, deciding, for example, not to pay the promised “child allowance” in full and modifying its pledge to eliminate expressway tolls. In June this year Hatoyama resigned and Kan Naoto took the helm as the new captain of the ship of state, but the crew of the ship are ... ... [Read more]

No.2
Politics, No.2  Aug. 7, 2010

PARTY POLITICS IN JAPAN–ON COURSE FOR A MELTDOWN?

HANDŌ KAZUTOSHI In the first sixty-five years following World War II, Japan had thirty prime ministers, if you begin with Higashikuni Naruhiko and count up to Asō Tarō. I made the interesting discovery that looking at them in three equal groups, divided chronologically, is an excellent way to go about understanding postwar Japan. The first group of ten begins with Higashikuni Naruhiko [prime minister Aug.-Oct. 1945] and ends with Satō Eisaku [1964-72]. The members of this group were mostly seasoned former bureaucrats, including veterans of Japan’s prewar bureaucracy. The next group extends from Tanaka Kakuei [1972-74] through Miyazawa Kiichi [1991-93]. In contrast to the first group, which was dominated by people who rose up through the bureaucracy, six out of ten in this group began their careers as party politicians. As a group, they were tempered by the heat of factional... [Read more]

No.1
Politics, No.1  Jul. 29, 2010

THE FAILINGS AND POTENTIAL OF THE DPJ ADMINISTRATION

It would be impossible to overstate the momentous nature of the September 2009 change of government as a milestone in Japan’s political history. The advent of an administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan made possible the disclosure of previously hidden information and a number of changes in existing policies. Some of the new developments would have been inconceivable under the Liberal Democratic Party, including the expansion of social welfare and the budget-screening review of existing programs, which cut into bureaucrats’ established interests. I would reiterate that these policy changes are of tremendous significance. Needless to say, there is also disappointment in the lost opportunities resulting from the weakness in leadership of the administration of Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio, including frailty among the politicians making it up and the lack of strategy in its actions. What is required now,... [Read more]

No.1
Politics, No.1  Jun. 6, 2010

DIVIDED GOVERNMENT AGAIN

On July 11, the Japanese people went to the polls to elect their representatives to the House of Councillors. The result was a severe setback for Japan’s new ruling party, the Democratic Party of Japan. After breaking the Liberal Democratic Party’s decades-long lock on power in a historic House of Representatives election less than a year earlier, the DPJ won only 44 of the 121 seats up for grabs in the House of Councillors, while the LDP secured 51, more than any other party. As a result, although the DPJ continues to control the powerful House of Representatives and therefore the cabinet, it now lacks an upper house majority even with the help of its coalition partner, the People’s New Party. The people have voiced their dissatisfaction with the government by opting for a “hung” Diet. The upper house election was a critical test ... ... [Read more]

No.1
Politics, No.1  Jun. 5, 2010

CHALLENGES FOR PRIME MINISTER KAN

On June 8, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Kan Naoto assumed the office of prime minister and appointed a cabinet, becoming Japan’s sixth prime minister in five years. In the following, we will explore some of the reasons for this extraordinary rate of turnover, review Kan’s career and qualifications, and discuss the policy and political challenges that confront the new prime minister. The Roots of Failure A look back over the brief tenures of Japan’s four previous prime ministers–Abe Shinzō, Fukuda Yasuo, Asō Tarō, and Hatoyama Yukio–reveals a fairly consistent pattern. In each case the cabinet started out with high approval ratings but very soon fell from public favor, and in each case this loss of public support made it difficult or impossible for the prime minister to stay in office. Abe made the decision to resign, partly for health reasons, when ... ... [Read more]

No.1
Politics, No.1  Jun. 2, 2010

RETHINKING THE HOUSE OF COUNCILLORS

At a meeting of the House of Representatives Committee on Financial Affairs on the morning of April 6, 2010, Liberal Democratic Party legislator Koizumi Shinjirō addressed Kamei Shizuka, minister of state for postal reform and head of the tiny People’s New Party, and he did not mince words. According to an opinion poll recently published by the daily Sankei Shimbun, public support for the PNP stood at 0.0%. It fared only marginally better–0.7%–in a Kyodo News survey. In effect, Koizumi said, a party with virtually no voter support was ramming through an overhaul of one of the nation’s key institutions. And the main ruling party, the Democratic Party of Japan, was allowing itself to be pushed around by this political nonentity. It was the DPJ, not the PNP, that the people had voted into power with a resounding 300-seat lower house majority. The young ... ... [Read more]