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Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda needs to restore unity within the DPJ

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda needs to restore unity within the DPJ

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Democratic Party of Japan elected Yoshihiko Noda to be the new leader of Japan and this was ratified on August 30 by parliament. In the early period he may find respite from petty squabbling within the factional based system in Japan because factionalism blights the DPJ and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).  However, in order for the DPJ to regain trust then unity is essential and sound economic policies must follow but this will not be easy given the political reality of Japan.

Yoshihiko Noda needs to focus on economic initiatives and reconstruction for the damaged areas of Japan which were hit by the deadly earthquake and tsunami. At the same time he needs to rebuild or to at least show unity within the DPJ instead of factionalism appearing to dominate and political bigwigs need to be constrained.  The new prime minister also needs to work out a new supplementary budget and in the upper house Yoshihiko Noda needs to persuade some opposition parties to get on board and support his plans.

The new leader of Japan is known for being very conservative when it comes to fiscal policies and given Japan’s enormous public debt then is not such a bad thing.  However, in order to push through major economic measures he needs to build consensus within the DPJ and to show the electorate that the new leader does have a clear objective and that he will work hard to reign in discontent.

The strong yen is another area of major concern and the same applies to the deflationary malaise.  Also, Yoshihiko Noda should dip into the enormous reserves of Japan in order to utilize these funds because events after March 11 have created a major economic headache.  At the same time, the new leader must focus on energy related issues and the nuclear factor must not be destroyed based on political short-sightedness. Therefore, real radical change needs to be thought out deeply before dismantling a very strong source of energy.

The main party bigwig within the DPJ, Ozawa, needs to be told bluntly that he can’t hold a gun to the head of the elected leader of the DPJ when the going gets tough.  Also, it is hoped that Yoshihiko Noda’s decision to elect Azuma Koshiishi to be the secretary general is a sign of mending fences and not weakness towards Ozawa.

The sad reality is that while Yoshihiko Noda may have a genuine reform program in the offing he may be constrained by his balancing act of creating a consensus hierarchy of political rivals within the upper echelons of the proposed new cabinet.  This in itself shows you the weakness of his position at the moment but surely members of the DPJ must realize that they are on borrowed time if they turn against their own leader once more. After all, the electorate is becoming disenchanted with petty infighting.

The taxation issue is complex because you have divisions within the DPJ about tax hikes but many also understand that more revenue is needed and the LDP may not be so problematic on this issue.  However, smaller opposition parties have a different view about this alongside individuals within the DPJ and LDP – therefore, taxation policies will be closely monitored and scrutinized depending on the seriousness of Yoshihiko Noda’s economic reforms.

Yoshihiko Noda fully understands that the honeymoon period will be short within the DPJ if factionalism can’t be contained. Also, he knows full well that the honeymoon period with the electorate will nose dive based on past history.  However, despite all the shortcomings, it is time for the new leader of Japan to take the bull by the horns and to focus on neglected issues and to help in the reconstruction of Japan.  

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2011 in Japan

 

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Democratic Party of Japan is standing up well to the tragic earthquake and tsunami

Democratic Party of Japan is standing up well to the tragic earthquake and tsunami

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times  

PM Naoto Kan 
PM Naoto Kan

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) is standing up well to the tragic earthquake and tsunami and the Prime Minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, is gaining in stature.  Despite this, the media in Japan is often too critical and people should remember the shortcomings of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) during the Kobe earthquake which struck in 1995.

Factionalism is a huge problem in Japan and this applies to the main political parties and back stabbing, power constraints, no focused hierarchy which is united, and other factors, is hindering the political system in Japan.

Therefore, prime ministers resign quickly and factions once more start to focus on their respective power concentrations.  This leads to a cycle of “nothingness” and shortsightedness and it is refreshing to hear Naoto Kan stating that he will serve out his term and not resign.

Irrespective if people support the current DPJ led government or if they are loyal to the LDP or other minor political parties; it is instrumental for the political system to have stability and people in Japan and the media need to take the rough with the smooth.

Karel van Wolferen, the author of The Enigma of Japanese Power, states Amid the horrifying news from Japan, the establishment of new standards of political leadership there is easy to miss – in part because the Japanese media follow old habits of automatically criticizing how officials are dealing with the calamity, and many foreign reporters who lack perspective simply copy that critical tone. But, compared to the aftermath of the catastrophic Kobe earthquake of 1995, when the authorities appeared to wash their hands of the victims’ miseries, the difference could hardly be greater.”

This is a fair point and the current crisis in Japan is much more devastating than Kobe in terms of the numbers of people killed, the fact that the 2011 earthquake also led to a destructive and deadly tsunami and added to this you have the nuclear factor and the fear of radiation.

This is not to understate the Kobe earthquake because this earthquake also killed many people and over 6,000 people died and this earthquake was truly devastating.

However, the earthquake which struck on March 11, 2011, is the first earthquake in the world to compose of an earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis.  Therefore, the DPJ, which is beset with factionalism, just like the LDP, is doing a good job given the circumstances.

Karel van Wolferen, referring to the Kobe earthquake, states that “This time, Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) government is making an all-out effort, with unprecedented intensive involvement of his Cabinet and newly formed specialized task forces. The prime minister himself is regularly televised with relevant officials wearing the work fatigues common among Japanese engineers.”

The Kobe earthquake in 1995 epitomized the aloofness of the LDP and appeared to be based on consensus thinking and bureaucratic mindsets which were ill prepared to act promptly.  Also, the earthquake appeared to be based on stratification because according to Karel van Wolferen many people were left to look after themselves because the main priority was to focus on people who “belonged to corporations or religious groups.”

The DPJ ended the monopoly of rule under the LDP and for bureaucratic mandarins the consensus faced a new approach because the philosophy of the DPJ is that elected officials should rule and be made accountable for their actions. 

Since the DPJ took power it is clear that career officials, the judiciary, and all the mechanisms under the tight bureaucratic ship have faced power concentration issues and it is not easy for the DPJ to alter the status quo and mechanisms of power in Japan.

The American government under President Obama undermined the first DPJ leader, Yukio Hatoyama, because the Obama administration appears to look down on Japan and instead of a genuine discussion about Okinawa; it was a case of dictate and enforcing an American objective and ultimately this led to the resignation of Yukio Hatoyama.

This was an auspicious start for the new DPJ government and added to this initial setback the Ichiro Ozawa “shadow” continues to linger and he is not helping the cause of the Naoto Kan government.

Karel van Wolferen also lambasts the media in Japan because he states that Japan’s main newspapers have mostly backed the status quo as well. Indeed, they now appear to have forgotten their role in hampering the DPJ’s effort to create an effective political coordinating body for the country. A half-century of reporting on internal LDP rivalries unrelated to actual policy has turned Japan’s reporters into the world’s greatest connoisseurs of political factionalism. It has also left them almost incapable of recognizing actual policy initiatives when they see them.”

However, despite everything the DPJ is focused under Naoto Kan and the government is being very transparent and daily briefings can be seen on television.  It is obvious that some mistakes will be made during the current crisis because all governments would struggle under such an enormous crisis. 

Despite this, the Kan government is thinking on its feet and the government is part of the people and if we think about the Kobe earthquake; then clearly the LDP government at the time was aloof and rigid.

The future of the current Kan administration is still uncertain because of factional politics in Japan, the Ozawa “shadow,” major economic issues which have been created by the LDP, and power concentration mechanisms are still potent within the body politic of Japan.

Yet the current leader of Japan is holding up well and decisions are being made promptly and transparency is part and parcel of the Kan administration. 

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