Japan from the inside out

Situation vacant

Posted by ampontan on Monday, September 28, 2009

ONE FINE DAY, Japan will have a real government at last. Despite a few positive moves in that direction by the recently installed Hatoyama Administration, however, it’s starting to look as if that day isn’t going to dawn anytime soon.

Driving in reverse

People are asking questions about members of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s policy study group attending the briefings of various ministry bureaus. The problem is that the party members are not bound to uphold the confidentiality of what they hear.

New Health, Labor, and Welfare Minister Nagatsuma Akira discussed the issue with reporters after a Cabinet meeting on the 25th. He said:

“We’re thinking of a method in which we would appoint them as a sort of project team under Cabinet authority and have them work as part-time civil servants, for whom the confidentiality requirement applies.”

The reason the electorate voted in such massive numbers for a change in government was because they thought it was an urgent priority to disconnect the government from bureaucratic control.

How they manage to disconnect themselves from the bureaucracy by becoming part of it remains to be seen.

Legislation?…Oh yeah, that!

Here’s Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio on convening a Diet session in October:

“No decision has been made. We haven’t made a decision yet on what bills we’ll propose. Now we’ll start thinking about whether an extraordinary Diet session is necessary. There are two elections coming up (on 25 October to fill vacant upper house seats in Kanagawa and Shizuoka) and we have to see what happens.”

In other words, the people who’ve been telling us they’re ready to handle the reins of government for the past two years still haven’t got a program ready, though it’s been apparent for most of the year that they’d win the election.

Apparently, by-election campaigns take precedence over the Diet’s business.

The Nikkei points out that Mr. Hatoyama has a full diplomatic schedule next month, including summits with the leaders of China and South Korea. Why summits should be a priority isn’t clear, however. Both countries will be right there where they’ve always been for the foreseeable future, and there are no bilateral problems that either could be or need to be solved right away. That means there’s no real reason for Mr. Hatoyama to give them all his milk and cookies just yet.

As a small-government guy, I think it’s a capital idea for legislatures to meet as infrequently as possible—they only wind up getting into mischief and causing trouble for normal people—but would it have been too much to ask of the DPJ to have settled on what they want to do in Nagata-cho before they got there?

Aren’t they supposed to be the policy wanks, the ones who brought party platforms into Japanese politics?

Then again, if the DPJ wins both of those upper house seats, they might be able to disconnect themselves from one of their useless coalition partners and get to work.

And speaking of useless coalition partners…

More Cowbell from Kamei

It was almost a tradition in Japanese politics for one of the members of a new Liberal-Democratic Party Cabinet to shoot his mouth off within a week of being sworn in and wind up shooting himself and the party in the foot.

Well, the new Financial Services Minister Kamei Shizuka is an ex-LDP stalwart, so maybe he’s trying to keep the tradition of loose cannon fusillades alive.

Recall that Mr. Kamei recently said he favored a three-year moratorium on bank loan repayments for small businesses and homeowners—including some interest payments—and using public funds to prop up any banks that might have trouble making ends meet by forgoing all that income.

Mr. Kamei fired off several salvos on a TV broadcast yesterday as a counterattack to the legions of those who were appalled at the idea, including members of his coalition.

“Banks that are so weak that their stock would fall because of what I said aren’t qualified to function as banks.”

The Asahi dryly wondered whether a statement that employs “vague standards” to discuss the qualifications of banks is appropriate for a Cabinet minister with such broad oversight over those institutions.

“(If this measure) causes investors and citizens to lose their faith (in the banks) to such an extent, the financial institutions themselves should reflect on the reasons for their problems.”

Oh. It’s all their fault.

Finance Minister Fujii Hirohisa has said neither he nor the Bank of Japan thinks the measure is necessary. You may fire when ready, Kamei:

“We agreed to introduce that as a policy measure (during the negotiations to form a coalition). I don’t know what he’s talking about after all this time, but he’s just talking to himself.”

Meanwhile, overseas institutional investors started looking for the nearest exit.

In other news, he’s converted to the Hatoyama philosophy of high school student government:

“People can’t live under this radical philosophy of market supremacy, in which the strong eat the weak. I’m only trying to implement yuai (fraternal) politics.”

Mr. Kamei is also the Minister in Charge of Bloviating About Japan Post Privatization. Haraguchi Kazuhiro, the new Internal Affairs and Communications minister, has offered a suggestion for Japan Post’s reorganization. Said the Man in Charge Around Here:

“I’m the Minister in charge of Japan Post. It’s not that person’s (Haraguchi’s) position to make characterizations (literally, draw pictures) about matters that are my responsibility.”

I’ve remarked several times on Ozawa Ichiro’s propensity for creating inherently unstable coalitions, but this must be a record. The new Government’s only two weeks old and already one of the Cabinet ministers is telling two of his colleagues where to get off.

Despite the criticism from within the ruling party and business and financial circles, Mr. Kamei thinks he’s sitting in the catbird seat:

“If they’re so (opposed), they might hope that the Prime Minister will replace me. But that’s not possible.”

Here’s the problem–Mr. Kamei is right. During the campaign Candidate Hatoyama also came out in favor of a debt repayment moratorium while stumping for DPJ lower house MP Kawauchi Hiroshi, a member of the Hatoyama group/faction. Mr. Hatoyama said the moratorium was Mr. Kawauchi’s idea, but he also supported it. Though it went unremarked at the time, that part of the speech was filmed and is up on YouTube.

This has the potential to get really ugly.

On second thought, maybe it’s a good idea to put off a new Diet session until the by-elections after all.


Oh, my. According to the Asahi, at a press conference on the 28th, Mr. Hatoyama now said:

“It’s not the case that (the three coalition partners) agreed to go so far as a moratorium.” (モラトリアムということまで)

You know how they say charity begins at home? Maybe yuai does too–starting with the coalition government. If Mr. Hatoyama can’t sell it there, how can he expect to sell it anywhere else?

3 Responses to “Situation vacant”

  1. Bryce said

    Who knows, Kamei’s antics might work out okay for Hatoyama and co. in the end. If you are going into an upper house election, with a weak opposition unable to put up a real fight, what better way to win some more seats then by appealing to the public to cut you loose from the buffoon that is dragging your coalition and the country down by virtue of his position in the upper house?

  2. Bryce said

    After all, singling out Kamei and his friends as the bete noir worked wonders for Koizumi.

  3. Am I completely misreading/mishearing this or is it Hatoyama supporting a moratorium during the campaign?
    Ikeda Nobuo obviously thinks he’s supporting it, and his Japanese listening comprehension is better than mine. That’s where I got the information in my post.

    I would have posted that video myself, but the last time a YouTube video went viral that made the Hatoyama forces look bad (manifest), it got taken down.

    I know there’s software out there to overcome that problem (g), and that’s on my to-do list.

    – A.

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