AMPONTAN

Japan from the inside out

Hatoyama speaks!

Posted by ampontan on Friday, August 15, 2008


HATOYAMA YUKIO, the Secretary-General of the Democratic Party of Japan, the primary opposition party, recently sat for an interview with the Sankei Shimbun. Here’s the English version of that interview, which is worth reading. Note that the Sankei didn’t include the questions, so I can’t either!

On Aso Taro:

The Liberal Democratic Party selected Aso Taro as secretary-general, but a person’s policy is the important thing in an election, not his image.

On the Cabinet reshuffle:

The Cabinet reshuffle produced quite a lineup. (Laughs) Now we know all about Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo. Every trace of (former Prime Minister) Koizumi is gone. It’s clear this Cabinet intends to raise taxes, chiefly the consumption tax.

Everyone will view the personnel changes as a case of Mr. Fukuda getting down to business by expressing his intent to dissolve the Diet and call an election at a time of his own choosing.

On the other hand, replacing the prime minister just before the election would be nothing but a scam. We would make the case with the public that it was a perverted act. Mr. Fukuda should receive the verdict of the people himself.

On the next election:

If the Liberal Democratic Party accedes to the wishes of New Komeito (its coalition partner), the lower house election will most likely come after the Diet is dissolved in January. But we will press for an earlier dissolution and election.

On New Komeito:

I can’t predict what would happen after an election, but we must fight and defeat the LDP and New Komeito. When we have won, you can take it for granted that we will not allow one of the defeated parties in the government. Before that happens, we should send a message to the LDP members whose thinking is similar to ours asking for their cooperation.

Someone in New Komeito referred to the LDP as a “mud boat” (Note: A boat made of mud. In other words, it would sink during any but the shortest and safest trips and take everyone on board down with it). Now they’ve started to cast longing gazes at the DPJ. The question-and-answer session we had in the Diet with Yano Junya is having some effect.

I get the feeling that New Komeito is afraid we’ll hold several such sessions in the Diet, and we’ll call him to testify. They’re kidding themselves (if they think they can cozy up to us). New Komeito is part of the Cabinet, so we will harshly confront them in the extraordinary Diet session just the same as in an ordinary session. There will be more to the Yano story.

On Maehara Seiji and the DPJ leadership election:

In regard to the election for the DPJ party presidency, (Maehara) has given (party president) Ozawa Ichiro a passing grade, but that’s impertinent. Even in companies they don’t give marks to the president.

The important aspect to the party election is for the party president to send a bold message: Place your trust in me as the next prime minister. Accomplishing that without a party election would be the most stable approach for the DPJ. The question is whether or not we can do that.

On the government’s economic policies:

They say Prime Minister Fukuda will offer economic measures, but if the government and ruling party admits its failures and the policies are the same as those of the DPJ, we won’t oppose them.

What will be the source of the funds (for their measures), however? First of all, we are calling for the complete elimination of waste, including amakudari (post-retirement jobs for bureaucrats in government agencies). They think it’s OK to distribute pork and then rebuild the government finances with a tax increase. It’s clear they intend to raise taxes, isn’t it? We will make our case with the people that we have other ways to find the money.

The government and ruling party is putting up a show of working, but the nature and framework of their claims are different than ours. It is just not possible for them to truly eliminate government waste.

On working with the government during the next Cabinet session:

Prime Minister Fukuda is still the censured prime minister. The only thing that has changed is the Cabinet reshuffle. The principle is “one Cabinet, one censure”, but when there’s a new Cabinet, we don’t have to take that as a hard and fast rule. Many people are calling on us to put the heat on the government in debate during the extraordinary session.

Afterwords

On bipartisanship:

Mr. Hatoyama calls on LDP members of like mind to cooperate with a DPJ government, but he seems to view bipartisanship as a one-way street. Earlier this year, Kimata Yoshitake, an upper house member of Mr. Hatoyama’s party, voted to approve the LDP’s choice of Muto Toshiro as Bank of Japan governor. The party suspended him for one month. At that time, Mr. Hatoyama said:

“We punished him severely because in these important times, party members must act in unison.”

Mr. Hatoyama understands this very well–he had his own legs cut out from under him for trying to promote bipartisanship behind the scenes. He opened up an informal channel of communication with Ibuki Bunmei, then the LDP secretary-general, during the previous Diet session to discuss possible nominations to BOJ positions. The DPJ secretary-general told his counterpart that the party’s committee to vet nominees would not object if a specific person were nominated.

But DPJ leader Ozawa Ichiro informed the party that they “must act in unison” to reject that LDP nominee, regardless of his qualifications or their opinions.

After being humiliated in front of his peers, it would seem that Mr. Hatoyama has learned his lesson.

On Maehara Seiji and the party leadership election:

Mr. Hatoyama chastises Mr. Maehara for daring to evaluate Ozawa Ichiro, saying that even company presidents are not graded.

Perhaps we should excuse his ignorance of corporate governance, as his experience in the private sector is negligible. He was a college professor before entering politics.

But former party leader Mr. Maehara is a vice-president in the party’s Standing Officers Council. That would equate almost precisely with the Board of Directors of a major corporation, and directors most certainly do evaluate company presidents.

Mr. Hatoyama is trying to present a facade of unity by squelching the former DPJ leader and others who are calling for an intraparty election next month, including Okada Katsuya, another former party leader. He has good reason: Everyone is concerned that the party’s incompatible elements might break apart before they have a chance to form a government, instead of after.

On New Komeito:

The Sankei considered Mr. Hatoyama’s comments on New Komeito to be the most important part of the interview. Most people think the DPJ’s Ozawa Ichiro is trying to pry NK loose from its governing coalition with the LDP and get them to cross the aisle. The whispering has grown louder in recent weeks as New Komeito is becoming more concerned about its own survival in league with Mr. Fukuda and the LDP.

This might be part of a carrot-and-stick gambit the DPJ is playing with NK. One carrot is support for a bill to allow non-citizens with permanent resident status to vote in local elections. (Mr. Hatoyama supports such a bill, but has said the party probably won’t introduce a measure in the upcoming Diet session.)

This is an important issue for NK because they are widely seen as the political wing of the lay Buddhist group, Soka Gakkai. (They deny it, but no one believes it.) The latter group, which mobilizes its membership for the ruling LDP at election time, includes a relatively high percentage of Japanese-born Korean nationals, the so-called zainichi kankokujin. The ploy here is obvious.

On the other hand, Mr. Hatoyama is clearly threatening to further expose the dirty laundry of NK and Soka Gakkai in public by suggesting there will be additional questioning of Yano Junya.

Mr. Yano was the head of New Komeito from 1986 to 1989. He is embroiled in several ugly lawsuits with Soka Gakkai and other former NK members. Further publicity of their feud in the Diet could be very hazardous to New Komeito’s political health, and by extension, that of the LDP.

Try this article for a summary of the lawsuits. New Komeito has issued rebuttals of Mr. Yano’s charges at its website, which is linked on the right sidebar.

As for not allowing New Komeito into the government, don’t put it past Ozawa Ichiro. At any rate, it will not be for the emasculated Mr. Hatoyama to decide.

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