Activist turned politician, with today's new prime minister, who said Japan does not change?
April 12th at the Foreign press club in Tokyo, I asked Naoto Kan, whom we invited as deputy premier then to our luncheon- press conference if he would "have the guts to assume the duty of prime minister" if Hatoyama had to resign because of the "Henoko Futenma" problem?
Blank question I was aware of (I know him and often chatted with him before) but the only Q-one that counted, and to my surprise KAN did not say he would not become Prime Minister. His diplomatic comment at this time was to candidly state the "he always believed that Hatoyama should and could serve 4 years of mandate."
It took a few weeks to Mr. KAN to take the power!
Naoto KAN (pronunciation NAO - TO - CAN) elected today as Japan new DPJ president and is to succeed to Yukio Hatoyama as Prime Minister after Constitutional adoption by the Japanese Diet where the DPJ has a comfortable majority. 291 votes for Kan and 129 for his opponent. In a policy speech for the Democratic Party of Japan's presidential election, Kan said today he will continue to work on four key policies hammered out by Hatoyama. Those are creating an East Asian community as a regional forum modeled on the European Union, cutting greenhouse gases by 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, decentralizing Japan's administrative power, and enhancing public services. Kan, 63, who was deputy prime minister and finance minister in the Hatoyama Cabinet, was challenged by Shinji Tarutoko, 50, a House of Representatives member, for leadership of the party. I explained the origin of this victory these last days on this blog. The major aspect of the future weeks is how to transform this personal victory of Mr. Naoto Kan into a party victory and one way to deal with it is to clean the "money politics" file and come clean with voters. Also important is the role to play by the shadow boss" of DPJ and that is how to deal with Mr. Ichiro Ozawa... and to see if a broader conversation about Japan Asia and Japan EU and US strategical interests is to come. Faulty on the Japan US base relocation, Hatoyama cabinet collapsed after months of bilateral crisis. Okinawa still pondering. They won't on the Upper House election to come announced for 11 th of July.
Kan is expected to form a new cabinet this evening, after he wins a prime ministerial election at plenary sessions of both houses of the Diet this afternoon. The new party executive lineup is expected to be announced later in the day the Daily Yomiuri writes http://bit.ly/aLKwQv
KAN today at the DPJ gathering VDO
Click the arrow above
Naoto KAN biography
Naoto KAN Married with two sons, he enjoys to play "Go", the strategy chess alike game... He is a veteran opposition leader and civic activist; a founder of the Democratic Party (DPJ) that swept the LDP from power in September 2009. He now finds himself prime minister following the abrupt resignation of Yukio Hatoyama. He ran four times for parliament before winning a seat. Naoto Kan was born in Yamaguchi in the south, the son of a factory manager. A physics graduate from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, he ran a patent firm and then became a civic activist, focusing on environmental issues. In 1980 he won a seat in parliament as part of the tiny Social Democratic Federation. He served as health minister under a coalition deal with the LDP in the mid-1990s, becoming very popular after he exposed a scandal involving tainted blood products. He forced bureaucrats to release documents which showed the government had failed to prevent the use of HIV-infected blood products for transfusions. The scandal provoked a public outcry, and his handling of it propelled him high in opinion polls.
He went on to co-launch the DPJ and led it during the election of 2003, establishing the party as a credible opposition force and potential challenge to the LDP. But a year later he stood down, after admitting that he had failed to make state pension payments for 10 months while he was health minister. Although his failure to pay was an apparent oversight, Mr Kan said he was resigning to avoid further damaging the DPJ. Five years later, he became deputy prime minister when Mr Hatoyama swept to power amid widespread popular discontent with the LDP government. He was also appointed to head the National Strategy Bureau, a new body charged with wresting control of policy-making from the powerful bureaucracy. But he took over the finance portfolio four months later after Hirohisa Fujii stepped down due to ill health. Announcing his candidacy to replace Yukio Hatoyama in June, he emphasised his ordinary roots. "I grew up in a typical Japanese salaryman's family. I've had no special connections," he said. "If I can take on a major role starting from such an ordinary background, that would be a very positive thing for Japanese politics." Popular because of his unorthodox route to the top, he is known as a keen debater and his nickname is "Ira-Kan" - ira being short for irritable - because of his reportedly quick temper. He is the 5th Prime Minister of Japan in 4 years.
Some media quotes
"I will tackle and pull Japan out of deflation through comprehensive measures from the government and the Bank of Japan," Kan said said in the statement, hinting that he would seek greater cooperation from the central bank. He pledged to resume fiscal reforms and work toward sustainable finances, including possible tax hikes, to ensure a strong social security system for Japan's aging population. Addressing concerns about financial scandals, he vowed to keep politics clean and tighten campaign financing laws. Kan is seen by many analysts as the DPJ's best hope for restoring confidence in its ability to govern and deliver a viable roadmap for the future. He is everything Hatoyama was not (decisive, outspoken and a grass-roots populist with common roots.)
Unlike recent prime ministers, he was not born into an elite political family. Several past prime ministers, including Hatoyama, had fathers or grandfathers who were also prime ministers. "I grew up in a typical Japanese salaryman's family," Kan said at a news conference yesterday in Tokyo. "I've had no special connections. If I can take on a major role starting from such an ordinary background, that would be a very positive thing for Japanese politics."
Diplomacy: Regardless of who is at the helm, Japan's foreign and security policies are unlikely to shift drastically. The Democrats took power promising to steer a diplomatic course more independent of close ally the United States, but Hatoyama's efforts to do so hit a roadblock when he failed to find an alternative to keeping a U.S. Marine airbase on Japan's southern Okinawa island. Tokyo and Washington have agreed basically to implement a 2006 agreement to shift the Marines' Futenma airbase to a less crowded part of Okinawa, host to about half the U.S. troops in the country. But local opposition clouds the outlook for implementation, and experts worry that Hatoyama opened a Pandora's box by fanning anti-base sentiment that could undermine the 50-year-old alliance. The next prime minister will also likely keep stressing the need to deepen ties with Asia including China, given Japan's increasing reliance on the region for economic growth. Currency: Kan caused a stir when he became finance minister in January by saying that he would work with the Bank of Japan to weaken the yen, and that "it would be nice" if the Japanese currency slipped further. But he has since toed the government line that stable exchange rates are desirable, but levels should be set by the markets. (agencies)
Quoted from the Mainichi Shimbun editorial
Perspectives on Japanese politics by Hiroto Kosuge,
Political News Editor in Chief
A change of prime ministers has become an annual event in
Japan. The past four years saw four prime ministers, each
of whom is either the son or grandson of a former prime
minister. This has raised questions about whether a
decline in the quality of prime ministers is attributable
to an electoral system that allows nepotistic succession
and problems involving political parties' ability to
develop leaders, or to a decline in the ability of the
nation as a whole.
Outgoing Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is the founder of
the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), and was
burdened with the public's expectations for a historic
transfer of power. Nonetheless, Hatoyama caused confusion
in his own administration over the issue of relocating U.S.
Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture, and
announced that he will step down saying, "My resignation
will serve national interests."
No other prime minister has ever apologized to the public
using self-denigrating words. However, the important thing
is to reconsider the significance of the transfer of power
by scrutinizing the Hatoyama administration's merits and
demerits, and to see some positives in Japan's politics.
The prime minister stood by his own guns when he strongly
urged DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa to step down as
well. A political funding scandal involving Ozawa's former
secretaries is largely responsible for the sharp decline in
the approval ratings for the Hatoyama Cabinet. Ozawa's
battle against prosecutors, which involved the DPJ, wasted
much of the administration's energy. The scandal, along
with a case in which Hatoyama's mother provided a large
amount of funds to his political fund-raising organization,
has caused the public's distrust in the administration.
Those involved were never summoned to the Diet for
questioning. Such a thing never happened under the
previous administration led by the Liberal Democratic Party
(LDP) when its members were involved in scandals.
The DPJ, which had gained public support through its
cleanliness appeal, became so insensitive to the issue of
politics and money because its members are afraid of the
power of Ozawa. Even though it is difficult, DPJ
legislators should have firmer convictions and the belief
that they can overwhelm Ozawa. The Hatoyama
administration's failure to utilize bureaucrats' expertise
also caused its ability to govern to decline, contributing
to its collapse.
In other words, the Hatoyama administration confused the
problem of bureaucrats who land lucrative post-retirement
jobs after receiving generous retirement allowances, and
the utilization of bureaucrats' expertise in working out
policies. The administration failed to work out a national
strategy for several key issues including security policy,
slashing greenhouse gas emissions and rehabilitating the
deficit-ridden state budget, which could call for a hike in
the 5 percent consumption tax. The National Strategy
Bureau, which the DPJ-led government planned to set up as
the government headquarters for working out a national
strategy, never functioned because no relevant legislation
was enacted to give it legal grounds. The Hatoyama
administration began its work by criticizing the LDP-led
government without making a clear definition of a transfer
Unless the DPJ-led administration learns a lesson from its
failure under a new leader without attributing the problem
solely to Prime Minister Hatoyama's personal
qualifications, the significance of the transfer of power
following the DPJ's landslide victory in the 2009 general
election would be brought to zero.
✍✍✍ How come the ex-Foreign affairs ministry Tomohiko Taniguchi, who now teaches at Keio university, succeeded in being one of the rare commentators able to spread his analysis on several "globish" speaking TV channels? He is virtually unknown in the Japan's pools of political commentators who could not give much credit to an ex contracted diplomat under the LDP ruling.
Sources: reporter's notes, agencies, The Mainichi shimbun,
Daily Yomiuri, ajc.com