Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Japanese Election

Yes, Japan goes to the polls tomorrow and I know because now there are those annoying loudspeaker vans everywhere in Tokyo blaring out the local politicians name at 200 decibels.

However, for once, this election is actually vaguely interesting. At last it seems like there might be a genuine two-party system here, with the DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) challenging the ruling LDP (Liberal Democratic Party).

Of course as a foreigner, I can’t vote, but if I could, who would I go for?
Prime Minister Koizumi and his famous hair cut (think Japanese Richard Gere), or Okada (DPJ), who has been through many parties since leaving the LDP in 1993 and is son of the founder of Aeon (the supermarket giant).

First, some background: Prime Minister Koizumi called this election as a referendum on his plans for reform of Japan Post, which as well as delivering the mail, is the main savings bank and life insurer and has $3 trillion in assets. The idea is to free up this money by privatising Japan Post and stop the government from using the “second budget” (as these funds are called) to finance unnecessary construction projects that have traditionally been used by the LDP to buy votes in rural areas.

Koizumi was elected as a reformer and vowed to transform the LDP and Japanese politics in general. However he has been unable to push through many of his planned reforms, has failed to establish good relations with Japan’s Asian neighbours and lost a lot of support from the electorate due to his decision to send troops to Iraq.
The DPJ on the other hand would withdraw from Iraq and they insist that as the LDP is so tied to its past, they are the only party that can undertake the reforms necessary in Japan.
I would say that instead of solely focusing on reform of Japan Post, Koizumi should be embracing the rising Asian nations as a way to boost the Japanese economy.

My initial reaction would therefore be to go for the opposition DPJ, however in the circumstances of this election, I feel that it would be a mistake.
Koizumi has been unable to push through his reforms due to the old guard in the LDP who want the status quo preserved. While the DPJ talk about reform, they are an amalgamation of various smaller parties and I feel that they do not have the unity or strength to really transform Japan.

I therefore cast my vote for Koizumi, against the “old” LDP and for reform.
Even if Koizumi loses, his bravery in risking all on this issue has finally shaken up Japanese politics and hopefully put Japan on the road to reform, whoever is its next leader.

Of course it would be a lot easier if they just decided it all with a simple game of jyan ken pon (paper, scissors, rock)

Related entries: Koizumi to dissolve House

Koizumi loses

At just before 2pm today, Prime Minister Koizumi and his party, the LDP (自民党 – jimintou) suffered a very big loss in the upper house of parliament here: A set of postal-service privatization bills that Koizumi had been personally championing was soundly rejected by a vote of 125 to 108. The TV new stations are saying that more than 20 members of the LDP itself voted against the bills. The outcome of the vote was not a terrifically big surprise. Based on comments from senior members of the LDP that were broadcast last night and this morning, they already knew before today that they didn’t have enough votes to win passage of the bills.

The real significance of it all is that prior to the vote, Koizumi had threatened that if it didn’t pass, he would dissolve the lower house of parliament and call an early election. The threat seems to have been (at least in part) an attempt to cow the rebellious members of the LDP into voting for the bill. Apparently, up until this afternoon, senior LDP members who had a pretty good idea of how the vote was going to turn out had been pleading with Koizumi to retract the statement about calling new elections. But he didn’t. And now he’s got to make good on his word.

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