Japan from the inside out

More on Hatoyama the hapless, part two

Posted by ampontan on Friday, April 20, 2012

BEFORE we return to our regularly scheduled programming, let’s have two quick posts to provide more details on the approach of Hatoyama Yukio to politics and governance. They should help explain the reasons he was Phase One of the triple disaster that the DPJ government has been for Japan. Besides, some people just can’t turn their heads when they pass a wreck on the highway.

The national government is indicating a willingness to allow Kansai Electric Power to restart the reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant. Some local governments in the area think they’re moving much too fast. One of them is the city of Osaka, which is the largest shareholder in Kansai Electric.

Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru, as we’ve seen before in the (soon to resume) series about him, has pitched his tent among the group that opposes nuclear power in Japan. Mr. Hashimoto’s critics charge him with populism, and this is one area in which the charge legitimately sticks. All the reasons he gives for his opposition are emotional rather than rational, and he’s offered no serious proposals for alternative energy sources.

When it became apparent that the government was interested in getting the Oi plant back on line as soon as possible, Mr. Hashimoto declared war and said it was now the mission of One Osaka to bring them down:

“I am angry just at the fact that the government thinks it can fool the people with the provisional safety standards. If that’s how they’re going to do it, this will get serious, and we will have to make them pay for it. Kasumigaseki (the national bureaucratic dirigistes) is making light of the people.”

This upset the number two man in the DPJ, Secretary-General Koshi’ishi Azuma. During a speech in Kyoto, he said the government would formulate and present a plan for nuclear energy to counteract the One Osaka offensive. As for an election, his attitude is Let’s Rumble:

“One Osaka has stated that they will bring down the government because the DPJ government will ruin Japan. We accept their challenge.”

Accepting the challenge is exactly what the DPJ lower house MPs want to avoid. Many of them already know they’ll be looking for work in the private sector after the next election, so they’re looking now for anything that resembles a tourniquet. A promise to take on One Osaka over this issue in a general election is the equivalent of cutting open the veins in the rest of their limbs.

Mr. Koshi’ishi is clearly ignoring public opinion. The most recent Shinhodo 2001 survey conducted by Fuji TV, for example, found that in the part of the election for proportional representation by party, 10.2% of the voters favored the DPJ and 21.8% favored the LDP. In other words, they’re sitting at less than half of the total for the primary opposition party.

Further, 44.4% of the respondents said they were still undecided. At this stage of the political process, undecided means they think the DPJ and the LDP aren’t worth a pitcher of warm spit. Therefore, most of them will probably vote for someone affiliated with Mr. Hashimoto’s One Osaka group, or perhaps their national party ally, Your Party. In last November’s election for Osaka mayor, the Asahi Shimbun exit polls had most of the independent vote going to Mr. Hashimoto. The Shinhodo 2001 survey covers only the Tokyo area, but politicians consider it a bellwether of the national mood.

The DPJ Diet members at risk complain that Mr. Koshi’ishi is free to talk so tough because he’s a member of the upper house, where the terms are fixed and not subject to dissolution. He’s also 75 years old and likely to retire when his term ends anyway. Here’s what the MPs are saying amongst themselves: Mr. Koshi’ishi was an official of the Japan Teachers’ Union when they were comfortable with having out-of-the-closet Stalinistas as members, and he’s considered to be the guardian angel of the JTU old guard in the party. They think he’s upset Mr. Hashimoto is taking the teachers’ unions and public employees’ unions head on in Osaka, and is winning the battle.

Reporters asked Hatoyama Yukio what he thought of all this. He is a former prime minister, after all. Mr. Hatoyama said:

“Well, the (Osaka) mayor has his own ideas, and I suspect that the surrounding prefectures have concerns about the restart of the Oi plant that haven’t been alleviated. So, if the approach of too quickly restarting the plant has elicited the mayor’s opposition, wouldn’t it be necessary for both parties to seek a calmer response? But if we are going to contest an election, we must by all means put up a stiff fight.”

No, no one in Japan can reconcile his last sentence with the rest of his statement either. But people gave up on that long ago.

Other notes:

Here’s more data on the prospects for what might become an election that drops a bunker buster into the world of Japanese politics.

In preparation for the next election, local parties that would influence national politics are creating political juku, or ad hoc institutes to organize and educate potential candidates. Hashimoto Toru’s One Osaka group is in the process of selecting the most promising 2,000 students to continue their orientation before a further reduction to 400.

Aichi Gov. Omura Hideaki started his own political juku in the region and gave the first lecture himself on the 12th in Nagoya. There were 678 people listening. Most were from Aichi, but some also came from Tokyo, Gifu, and Mie.

Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, the Osaka branch of the LDP decided to organize a juku of its own. They’re calling it the Naniwa juku and began recruiting a month ago. They were hoping to attract 30 participants. A month into the process, they still haven’t found 30 people willing to join up and associate with the LDP brand, so they’ve extended the application period.

One member of the Democratic Party of Japan has left the party over the Noda government’s march toward a tax increase, and 29 more have resigned secondary positions of responsibility in the party and government in protest. A journalist spoke to one of them (whom he did not identify), and asked if he resigned because he saw no future in the DPJ. Here’s the answer:

“Rather than that, being a member of the party itself is just embarrassing.”

The DPJ government in Japan has become one of the epic political failures in the advanced democracies of the postwar period. As the party president and their first prime minister, Hatoyama Yukio has much to answer for. The public is so fed up, however, they can’t be bothered to ask.

The biggest fool that ever hit the big time, and all he had to do was act naturally.

Now this is serendipity. That song is followed by Honky Tonk Man. So was Hatoyama Yukio.

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One Response to “More on Hatoyama the hapless, part two”

  1. John G. said

    Regarding Hashimoto and opposition to nuclear power…

    As there’s so much to like about Hashimoto (and your series on him has been great), it really discouraging to see him demagogue this issue. He at least has a responsibility to say where the missing third of Japan’s power is going to come from.

    This is an easy win for him now, and it will be even easier if the Oi plant gets restarted despite the opposition to it. But in this case, it would be better to give people what they wish for and not restart any nuke plants at all. It would then be interesting to see how views change when come this summer the air conditioners are set at 28C, rolling blackouts are in effect, and manufacturers are sending workers home as their factories can’t run to capacity.

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