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

Brave New LDP Politics Transformed by Koizumi's Landslide Victory
MATUYAMA Yukio / Journalist

December 2, 2005
On September 11 in Japan the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) scored a landslide victory on the scale far exceeding anyone's expectations, even those of Prime Minister Koizumi himself. The victory, which has stabilized and strengthened the Government, not only realized the pending "privatization of postal services," but caused a seismic change in Japan's domestic political world.

Up till now it was well accepted that "the LDP being a conglomerate of factions, the LDP-based Prime Minister must devote most of his energy to forming consensus among factions, be it appointments or policies."

Prime Minister Koizumi acted quite differently; he forthright dissolved the House of the Representatives when the Postal Privatization Bill was killed in the Upper House, lending no ears to the opposing voices of anti-privatization forces in the LDP. In the ensued general elections he adamantly refused to grant party endorsement on those candidates who had opposed the Bill. He further tried to prevent these opposing members from returning to the new House, by standing fresh new candidates known by the sobriquet of "assassins" in their constituencies.

In forming the post-election Cabinet, too, Prime Minister Koizumi promoted to important posts only those who are cooperative to his party line favoring "reform," paying no heed to the customary factional balance or seniority. As the result, a few factions failed to have their representatives in the new Cabinet. It looks as if all traditional traits of the LDP's party management such as "consensus building, coordination and compromise" have totally been discarded.

In normal circumstances intra-party dissatisfactions would mount and make party management difficult. Buoyed by his electoral success, however, Mr. Koizumi, wields almost autocratic authority and now compares with former Prime Minister Yoshida who was dubbed as the "One Man." At the moment disgruntled elements in the LDP have been silenced.

In the four years under Koizumi government the Japanese economy remained sluggish, with the budgetary deficit snow-balling. Except for good Japan-US relations, Janan's diplomacy has been inert. The reason that he, nevertheless, registered over 50% supporting ratings in successive opinion polls may lie in the fact that his one-bite phrases such as "Let's break up the LDP" or "Let's realize a small government" are unequivocal, simple and easy to understand, and, thus, appealing to the Japanese general public who languish in the stifling air of the present times. The absence of any attractive contenders replacing Mr. Koizumi also helps the prime minister.

In the last general elections salient changes occurred in the people's voting patterns. Even in traditionally conservative constituencies the favorite-son element, bloodline or lure of pork-barrel now seem less important than before. Familiar TV figures and presentable "assassins" received unexpectedly large votes. Whether you like it or not, the voters' motivation is clearly shifting from "pork barrel" and "group pressure" to "popular appeal" and "political performance" in Japanese elections.

More women were elected, helped by this friendly wind. It is expected that arrivals of capable women would transform the hitherto male-chauvinistic political world in Japan. At a post-election luncheon hosted by the Tokyo Foreign Correspondents' Club I personally had the opportunity of witnessing the presentation and Q&A sessions undertaken by three newly elected female representatives, often called "Koizumi Children", namely, INOKUCHI Kuniko, former Disarmament Ambassador at Geneva, KATAYAMA Satsuki, a former high-ranking official of the Treasury's Budget Bureau and SATO Yukari, a senior employee of a foreign firm in Japan. I gained the impression that these women ranked equally with the best and brightest of the long-standing parliamentarians in terms of their self-expressional capability, command of English and composure. No doubt they would contribute to putting a better Japan on the world's radar screen.

Whoever will be Japan's next Prime Minister after Mr. Koizumi quits the scene as his terms of duty as the LDP President expires in September, 2006 (though the chance of his re-assumption of LDP Presidency is not to be totally excluded), it seems no longer possible to revert the momentum-gathering atmosphere of Nagata-cho to the old days.

The writer is former Editorial Writer of the Asahi Shimbun.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

松山幸雄 / ジャーナリスト

2005年 12月 2日







そうした風を背に、女性の進出も目立った。これは male-chauvinisticな政界に、質的変化をもたらすものと期待されている。私は総選挙直後、東京外人特派員協会の昼食会で、「小泉チルドレン」といわれる3人の新人女性議員、猪口邦子(前ジュネーブ軍縮委大使)、片山さつき(前大蔵省主計官)、佐藤ゆかり(外資系会社員)のプリゼンテーションと質疑応答を聴く機会を得たが、自己主張能力、英語、表情、どれをとっても現役国会議員の最高水準にあり、国際社会で日本のイメージアップに貢献するにこと間違いない、との印象を得た。


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) > Brave New LDP Politics Transformed by Koizumi's Landslide Victory