Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The Koizumi Administration - National Elections and Beyond
SHIMA Osamu / Former chief editorial writer of Yomiuri Shimbun

October 23, 2003
Approval ratings for the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi jumped 10% immediately following his re-election as president of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). General elections are close at hand and elections for the Upper House will take place next summer. The strong showing at the polls must have been encouraging indeed for those legislators and party members who voted for Koizumi in the hope of campaigning under a Prime Minister immensely popular with voters.

Once these elections are safely out of the way, there will be no central or nationwide local elections for the next three years. This will provide Koizumi with a political environment in which to concentrate on his agenda and decisively implement his policies, free from the vociferous demands of lobbyists eyeing elections.

However, the real test will be the momentum and stability of the Koizumi Administration in the immediate aftermath of the Upper House elections next summer. Koizumi's landslide victory in the election for LDP leadership was due in no small part to those who cast their votes passively, thinking "I don't approve of the Koizumi Cabinet's policies but the upcoming elections give me no other choice." Advocates for a switch to policies that stress economic recovery have also remained strong. The new LDP leadership should aim to secure the support of such people to create a united front, and upon that foundation endeavor to maintain and improve the Cabinet's approval rating. The state of party politics ten months from now could well prove the key factor in the future course of national politics.

Policy and personnel are said to comprise the critical elements of politics. Prime Minister Koizumi demonstrates uncanny talents when it comes to appointments, and has admitted he'd always preferred dealing with "political turning-points" rather than "policies." In power struggles involving a tug-of-war over personnel, he takes pride in coming up with unexpected, inspired choices that take opponents by surprise. His latest appointees - as exemplified by his choice of Abe Shinzo as LDP Secretary General, the amazement with which they were received and the resultant rise in his approval rating, constitute a typical example.

But such power struggles are not without risks. Above all, repeated political meandering over who wins or loses is a hindrance to harmony within the party. While amusing to outside observers, neglecting legislative debate which lies at the foundation of multi-party politics is no way to fulfill political responsibility. I hope the Prime Minister and his entourage, in pursuing the course of structural reform, will exercise political consideration from a broader vantage point.

In his general policy speech to parliament, the Prime Minister emphasized his accomplishments over the past two and a half years, saying "buds of reform have sprung up to revive Japan." He added he would complete a privatization plan for the postal services - a pillar of his reforms - by autumn next year and present a reform bill before parliament in 2005. And with regard to the four public road corporations, he promised to conclude concrete plans within the year and begin the process of privatization from fiscal 2005.

Prime Minister Koizumi has thus promised to implement his plans during his term, but Mikio Aoki, secretary general of the LDP's Upper House caucus, has publicly proclaimed he would crush any privatization bill once it gets to his House. Whether Koizumi has any chance of success remains to be seen.

The writer is former chief editorial writer of Yomiuri Shimbun.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

島 脩 / 元読売新聞論説委員長

2003年 10月 23日







一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The Koizumi Administration - National Elections and Beyond