Japanese ruling party in worst crisis ever

From the New York Times in the USA:

Facing Party Rift, Japan’s Prime Minister Calls Election


Published: July 13, 2009

TOKYO — Prime Minister Taro Aso said on Monday that he would call a general election late next month, after a bruising defeat in a widely watched local vote sank his Liberal Democratic Party deeper into its worst crisis in a half-century of power.

In a meeting with top party officials, Mr. Aso said he would dissolve Parliament next week and hold the elections for its lower house, which selects the prime minister, on Aug. 30. The sudden decision follows months in which Mr. Aso had been trying to put off the national elections, in part because opinion polls have shown that his Liberal Democrats are almost certain to lose.

Mr. Aso’s hand appeared to be forced, though, by a defeat on Sunday in a municipal election in Tokyo. The loss raised the specter of a revolt within his party, with a number of members fearing that the government’s support ratings, now in the high teens, will only continue to decline. Lawmakers and analysts have warned that the party may break apart if it finds itself in the unaccustomed position of losing power.

The Liberal Democrats have governed Japan for most of its postwar history, but recently the party has appeared unable to adapt to a changing era. Disgruntled voters increasingly blame the party for its failure to outgrow its traditional pork-barrel politics and find an end to the nation’s seemingly intractable political paralysis and economic decline.

“The Tokyo assembly vote pushed Prime Minister Aso into a position where he either had to dissolve the Parliament or resign,” said Ichita Yamamoto, a Liberal Democratic lawmaker. “The feeling inside the party is that he couldn’t put off the decision any longer.”

In the vote on Sunday, the opposition Democrats became the largest party in the Tokyo city assembly by winning 54 seats. Furthermore, the Liberal Democrats lost their majority in the chamber, capturing only 38 seats, their worst showing in 44 years. …

Mr. Aso and others have resisted calls for his removal, saying the party cannot afford to alienate voters with another change of leadership. When he took office last September, Mr. Aso was the fourth prime minister in two years, a rapid turnover that only reinforced the popular perception that the Liberal Democrats had lost their way.

From Finfacts in Ireland:

The LDP has only lost power once – – in 1993 – – and is comparable with Ireland’s dominant Fianna Fáil party, for its links with the construction sectors and toleration of endemic cronyism and nepotism.

About 35% of the Japanese workforce are temporary workers, earning less than the Irish minimum wage of €8.65 ($12.10).

See also here.

Japanese turn to communists in downturn: here.

Japan’s main opposition party has pledged to boost relations with China and rethink US military bases on Okinawa if it comes to power in this month’s elections: here.

Sexism in Japan: here.

On December 29, 1934 Japan announced it would withdraw from the Washington Naval Treaty: here.

2 thoughts on “Japanese ruling party in worst crisis ever

  1. Japan shrinks from the American embrace

    By David Pilling

    Published: July 23 2009 03:00 | Last updated: July 23 2009 03:00

    Japan’s postwar edifice has rested on two mighty pillars. The first is its military alliance with the US, its erstwhile conqueror, under whose nuclear umbrella Japan has sheltered since 1945. The second is the Liberal Democratic party, stalwart defender of that alliance, whose benign conservatism supported Japan’s extraordinary economic rise. The first of these pillars, the LDP, is about to crumble. What will happen to the other one?

    The question is worth asking even though the alliance is made of stronger stuff than a mere political party, however enduring. In a region still echoing with wartime rancour and groaning under the strain of shifting economic and military fortunes, it will be in the interest of both countries to hold their postwar clinch for years, if not decades, to come.

    But the nature of that clinch could change. The centre-left Democratic party of Japan, a loose alliance of LDP defectors, technocrats and former socialists now almost certain to win power next month, has questioned some of the alliance’s sacred cows. In its 2007 manifesto, its latest word on the subject, it said it would “re-examine the role of the US military in the security of the Asia-Pacific region and the significance of US bases in Japan”. The manifesto also stressed the importance of building trust with Asian neighbours, particularly China.

    Some DPJ officials have suggested that the US’s roughly 50,000 troops and 90 military bases should be cut drastically or even eliminated altogether. It has also opposed Japan’s stationing of ground troops in Iraq and refuelling operations in the Indian Ocean, arguing that these violate the pacifist constitution. Ichiro Ozawa, the DPJ’s most powerful force, has argued that Japan might play a more active (even military) role in international affairs, but under the auspices of the United Nations not the tutelage of an American dog handler.

    When push comes to shove, the DPJ is likely to walk away from many of these positions. Yukio Hatoyama, its leader, recently stressed the need to preserve “continuity in diplomacy”.

    Yet the DPJ’s suggestion that it wants to forge a new, more equal US alliance has unnerved Washington. Even under the alliance-friendly LDP, Japan’s US friends have struggled to keep Japan in the frame. Hillary Clinton, now secretary of state, deeply offended Tokyo when, in a 2007 article in Foreign Affairs, she stated baldly that the Sino-US relationship was the world’s single most important. The remarks evoked painful memories of her husband’s notorious “Japan passing”, symbolised by his diplomatic no-no of skipping Tokyo on his way to Beijing. Washington has also rattled Japan by allowing North Korea to tiptoe to nuclear status.

    The Obama administration has tried to make amends. Taro Aso, Japan’s walking-dead prime minister, was honoured with the first invitation to meet Barack Obama in Washington. Mrs Clinton also made a point of visiting Tokyo first.

    Yet Japan’s economic decline, coupled with its painfully slow progress in overcoming pacifist constraints, has made life difficult for its advocates in Washington. Members of the Popeye Club, so called because many of them hail from the US navy, view the military alliance with Japan as the cornerstone of Washington’s Asia policy. They contend that only from a position of rock-solid unity with like-minded allies – crucially Japan – can the US sensibly deal with China.

    Japan’s supporters struggle against those, sometimes called the “continentalists”, who favour a “go to China” policy on issues from global warming to North Korea. So seductive is the argument that the US should cut out the middle-man, that Mike Green, a top adviser on east Asia under President George W. Bush and a paid-up member of the Popeye Club, felt obliged to spell out the counter-argument in recent congressional testimony. “Rather than decreasing the strategic significance of Japan to the United States, China’s growing power has made the US-Japan alliance even more important,” he said.

    The strains on both sides of the alliance should not be exaggerated. Compared with 20 years ago, when the US was paranoid about Japan’s perceived unstoppable economic rise, tensions have dwindled to nothing. Despite the rhetoric, Japan will not lightly throw away an arrangement that guarantees its security at minimum cost.

    Yet the imminent victory of the DPJ is more than a political realignment. It also marks a generational shift. For virtually the first time, Japan will be run by leaders with no strong memory of the war. They will seek to recalibrate an alliance with the US shorn of wartime guilt and postwar dependence. They will also strive to construct a security alliance that acknowledges Japan’s ties with Asia and China’s growing regional clout. As one US commentator says of the DPJ’s likely posture towards Washington: “Sit, stand, bark! They’re just not going to do that any more.”

    The writer is the FT’s Asia editor

    Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009



  2. Pingback: Japanese taxpayers’ money for wars, instead of Fukushima disaster cleanup? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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