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Dumping Fukuda won't solve LDP's problems

23 Comments
By Henry Hilton

Be careful what you wish for. It’s the oldest adage in the book but surely dead right in today’s political climate.

Take the position of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, for starters. After his party’s recent mauling in the Yamaguchi by-election and the restoration of the resented gasoline tax, the talk inevitably is of how much longer the man can hang on in office.

Yet the problems facing Japan’s ruling Liberal-Democratic Party go far deeper than merely calling for the serving up of Fukuda’s head on a platter. Nothing is going to be solved by simply blaming the incumbent premier for the party’s recent failings. Of course, Fukuda should be held partly responsible for policy flops and over his inability to display much confidence in the nation’s economic prospects but who can do any better? The LDP hardly gives the impression of knowing where it is going or having an abundance of potential leaders waiting in the wings to assume office.

The party’s tried and tested tactical move of quietly putting its failures out to grass and then lining up suitable successors is not likely to wash much longer. The revolving door principle of both the pre and post-Koizumi eras is pretty well used up with a public that sees through the old ploy of simply switching leaders when the opinion polls begin to register really dire numbers.

The basic question surely for the LDP is how to stop the rot and present decent reasons why it should have an almost god-given right to run the show. The longer it fails to confront its structural problems, the easier it ought to be for Ichiro Ozawa’s Democratic Party of Japan to win the crown in the next general election. Perhaps the surprise for outsiders, though, is that it continues to take so long to see any substantial shift in the Japanese political climate. After all, political scientists have been dreaming up scenarios for decades on how and when an opposition party could destroy the conservatives and finally make that all-important breakthrough into office, yet it has still to happen.

Dropping the pilot remains the conventional way ahead for the LDP. Yet, shoving Fukuda overboard does not begin to tackle the party’s mega-problems. It needs to recall how former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was able to widen the party’s appeal by incorporating many more previously uncommitted urban, younger voters and through repeating time and time again his “reform” mantra. The result was a whopping success thanks to Koizumi’s determination to chastise important elements in the party he was actually purporting to lead. It is this invaluable electoral cushion in the lower house of the Diet that allows his party to soften current attacks from the DPJ.

Since there does not appear to be anyone of Koizumi’s magnetism on the horizon, the LDP might just as well let Fukuda soldier on for now. His eventual successor -- perhaps in 2009 and certainly well after Japan’s hosting of the prestigious G-8 summit in Hokkaido -- needs to present much more than simply a fresh face.

To combat the DPJ, the LDP will have to spell out concrete economic and welfare policies that attempt to bring more of the electorate within its umbrella. The old backroom approaches won’t wash when the prime minister of the day has to engage in hand-to-hand combat with the opposition and knows that a less deferential public may be prepared to risk voting for the present opposition rather than continue to give the conservatives the benefit of the doubt.

Since it is far too risky for the LDP to assume that sooner or later the DPF will implode thanks either to disunity or to more tantrums from its leader, now might be the time for Fukuda’s party to turn its back on business as usual. It is not a new leader but a greater show of competence that might yet confound the critics and keep the longest running show in the democratic world on the road.

© Japan Today

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23 Comments
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It wont solve them but cant hurt either

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the problem is if the DJP wins a majority, i don't think they'll know what to do with it. all they do is complain and present no real plans on how to fix anything.

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The only person capable of solving the LDP's problems, or at least upsetting the status quo is Koizumi. Everyone else is cut from the same cookie-cutter.

Perhaps they can consider offering Hillary a job as PM.

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These old LDP guys are too personally invested in protecting the status quo to do anyone any good. Japan needs a good shaking. Imagine your average housewife beating dust and mites out of a rug on the balcony and apply that to the Japanese government. Time to beat out all the old dust and start fresh. Sadly a very unrealistic wish.

I blame your average Japanese voter. Like I blame my average US voter. If people care enough to become truly politically active and get out there to make change happen, it will. But keep voting for the same cluster of priviledged class twits who couldn't care less about normal working people and the public get what it deserves. Nothing. Change means sacrifice and involvement. Time to get involved people.

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Perhaps they can consider offering Hillary a job as PM.

Good idea. Japanese can learn non-violent surprise attack.

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the problem is if the DJP wins a majority, i don't think they'll know what to do with it. all they do is complain and present no real plans on how to fix anything.

The LDP don't know what to do with their majority either except use it to line their pockets and ignore what the people really want. They have no idea how to fix anything because they're at least partly responsible for all the problems in the first place.

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Have to wonder if this guy is capable of reading the Japanese media.

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I don't have any problems with the LDP-except I wish in English it wouldnt be called LDP. That translation is very misleading.

I think Japanese politicians read their people and talk well. The LDP still has the favour of the people, because they are listening to the DPJ and are tackling the problem of that whoever takes lead is always on a downhill road with the polls, as they have to face what needs to be fixed within the government. Fukuda is actually quite a flexible character, who I think will prove beneficial for the party and the country. He knows Koizumi's govt, and also knows where he went wrong. He can 'play chess' with Ozawa, and neither are interested in winning, as much as doing right. A very good situation. I dont like descriptions or assumptions that lead one to believe that they are purposely wrongdoing. That is wrong. Go Fukuda!

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I don't have any problems with the LDP-except I wish in English it wouldnt be called LDP. That translation is very misleading.

Jiyu (liberal) Minshuto (democratic party). That's right, isn't it?

The LDP still has the favour of the people, because they are listening to the DPJ and are tackling the problem of that whoever takes lead is always on a downhill road with the polls, as they have to face what needs to be fixed within the government.

The LDP's very low opinion polls may indeed be a reflection of the fact that the populace would prefer them to sort things out rather than an indication of how well the DPJ are doing, but if they were listening to the DPJ would they really be using their supermajority in the House of Representatives to ram through anything the House of Councillors rejects?

I dont like descriptions or assumptions that lead one to believe that they are purposely wrongdoing. That is wrong. Go Fukuda!

I really don't mind Fukuda that much, he seems a decent sort of man. But the LDP... where to start with all the purposeful wrongdoing. Pandering to right-wing ultranationalists, using yakuza as union busters, maintaining big voting disparities between rural and urban areas and then flooding the countryside with massive pork barrel projects to keep the over-represented rural voters on their side... if Fukuda does something about all that I'll be impressed.

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ok, here goes. Jiyuu uses this kanji 自由. It is often translated as "freedom". The first kanji has meaning for "oneself", and even the forming of this kanji, relating to "eye" is interesting. The second kanji has meaning towards, course or line, like as in history or lineage.

Liberal seems too liberal, don't you think? Liberal is often political in meaning, though not necessarily.

Minshutou 民主党. Let's break it down. Min means "folks, people". -shu-, or rather shi, means "main". -to refers to "party,group"

And while we are at it, Minseitou. 民政党.

Again Min "folks,people". -sei- "political" -tou, "party, group".

It is when translation comes in that we try to adjust words to our meanings and do not take note of what is really being said.

"Ram through...", as you state, is your opinion, and you miss the initiative of the government.

As you say "...about all that..", Fukuda, or whoever, has to deal with. I think is at a brilliant point to deal with the fact that these issues arise and will keep arising unless something dramatically changes, and that is where Ozawa is applying brilliant pressure! These issues you describe are not only here, they are everywhere. The issue is not what you describe, ultranationalists? yakuza? over-represented?, they are not the bad within the people, they are the groups of people that have had bad develope within them. You want to say that anybody is bad, because they hold a different belief to you, ultranationalists, people who are passionate about their country, are not bad, yakuza, family based groups, and the over-represented, of the land or the people?

The issues can not be resolved with more and more introduction of different labelling, the problems need to be faced, one at a time. Both political parties talk wonderfully! Time is not always easy to come by, I think the Japanese govt is quick!

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whoops messed up the DPJ 民主党、 Min, people shu, main tou, party....

geez, did you just catch that great morning debate on NHK?

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You want to say that anybody is bad, because they hold a different belief to you, ultranationalists, people who are passionate about their country

Yes, when they murder politicians who disagree with them, send them bullets in the post or set fire to their homes, I want to say they're bad.

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By the way, I checked the Japanese and you're absolutely right about the mis-translation. People's Freedom Party or something like that would be closer to the mark. But "Liberal Democratic Party" is the term they use themselves - just check http://www.jimin.jp/jimin/english/.

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Yes I would think that they call themselves by this term in English because of when, they were formed. Though in Japanese, from the start, and by their name, they knew what they were doing. That is, as they are now, dealing with democracy, which has become more, the belief in money in most democratic societies, to the detrement of what democracy is. This small difference in naming shows me that Japan is more democratic than even the USA.

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Of course, not all ultranationalist right-wingers are so crazy as to do those kinds of things. But they do spend a lot of time marching up and down in front of Yasukuni Shrine in WW2 uniforms or driving around in big black trucks with music and slogans blaring out of loudspeakers, and I think there are much less offensive ways to demonstrate how much they love their country. Incidentally, if they did the same kinds of things in Germany or Austria they'd get arrested and put in prison for being Nazis. I wonder why that never happens in Japan. But anyway, back to the topic...

Having Fukuda as PM is really not so bad. The reason why dumping him wouldn't solve the LDP's problems is that they're deeply ingrained. LDP politicians don't have a vested interest in solving Japan's problems, because the status quo allows them to stay in power and fill their pockets at the same time. Why do you think they lost so badly last year in the House of Councillors election? Koizumi stopped the flow of pork barrel money to the rural areas, which the LDP depended on for its majority because they're so over-represented. Whether Fukuda goes or not, the LDP will remain the same corrupt, self-selving bunch of dynasts it's always been, and hopefully it'll be consigned to oblivion at the next election.

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I agree the big monies-the corporate monies-are...manipulative. Yet behind those monies there is usually a whole bunch of people that they are supporting, meaning the average worker. So I dont think it as easy as saying that they-the LDP, or any others- are self-serving. The average worker needs to pull away from their situation in order for the government to accomodate more.

Koizumi, did what was right with the monies, because the population isnt there in the rural areas. But over-representation I dont think is the problem, because there is a lot of area to cover, and in fact I think there should be more representation. I think the whole government needs to break down into more smaller areas, with more self-governing within those areas, and answerable to the main government.

While we keep blaming government, or corporate monies, we dont take the initiative upon ourselves.

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This is a quote from a Japan Times article prior to the 2003 House of Representatives Election, but I don't think much has changed:

As an example of the disparity in vote values, in the next Lower House elections a vote in one of the least-populated districts will be worth 2.14 times more than a vote in one of the biggest.

I think that's a big problem. This is from the New York Times, again please tell me if the situation has changed at all:

The Grand Bench of the Supreme Court, the highest judicial authority, has tread a peculiar path around the problem. First in 1976 and then twice after that, it ruled various national elections unconstitutional because of the disproportionate value of a vote. But it has always permitted the election results to stand, arguing that a nullification would create chaos.

The elections, in short, are unconstitutional but valid.

Is it a coincidence that the main beneficiaries in this situation are LDP Diet members representing conservative rural constituencies? This is how they've maintained one party rule for virtually all of the past sixty three years, and no one shows any signs of doing anything about it. Dumping Fukuda certainly won't solve this problem. Yes, there's a lot of area to cover, but how can you say the countryside needs more representation when there's hardly anyone living there?

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Because, I think the government wants to move the population out there. Not an easy task, but ultimately the best choice for the position of the country/world at the moment. Though as I often imply, it is ultimately the people's choice, and they are, for the most part "canned sardines" and move with the flow. Perhaps the government is hoping to flow the "sardines" out of the urbanization?

And as for elections being unconstitutional but valid. I would ask what is democratic about counting only those that vote. If the majority of people dont go to elections and make a vote, wouldnt it be democratic to have no President? Im not sure on the stats now, but in the States there have been times when the numbers voting is less than half the population, does not the people's choice indicate, it wants for no President? 2.1 doesnt seem very much, considering say those voting, and their offspring-who usually arent living too close, and usually dont vote that much, 2.1 would cover their vote....

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should say, cover their vote, as they have probably inheritance there-rural areas-that they will receive and have to take responsibility for.

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People can decide whether to vote or not. They can't decide how much their votes are worth.

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The people arent deciding how much their vote is worth.

They can decide to vote or not, for whatever reason, like the voting is rigged, or they cant get to the ballot box, or they dont like the "contestants", who knows, but silence still has a voice. There are still people out there though with an opinion.

Perhaps I should say, thinking about it, rather than breaking it down more, it would be better to get rid of the prefectural leaders?

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Silence does indeed have a vote, but silence in the countryside is worth double silence in the city.

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That sounds about right!.....Interesting how much politics here can lend light to politics elsewhere! Or vice versa.

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