Friday, September 03, 2010

Ozawa vs Kan: Definition of a Virtual Duel

The lightness of Ozawa and Kan's debate

The "look-only-within our own circle" campaign for election of the next president of the Democratic Party of Japan officially started Wednesday September 1st, with Prime Minister Naoto Kan and former DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa running while the general climate is marked by a great anxiety and despair of the public opinion.

In spite of TV's street surveys, showing citizens untouched by sweating candidates in the late summer inferno, people's non-commitment rises high and appears as severe contrast to the hysterical behavior of the media which cultivate passions and mysteries. In my view, public apathy is growing and watchers are appalled by the lack of coherent political program of both candidates to the job of Prime Minister.

Election is on September 14th. Both candidates who each of them represent the old Japan, conservatives versus pale reformists, still have to explain how they would fix Japan's problems in a language that could be understood and trusted by ordinary people.

Announcement of a regrettable failure

Whoever gains the top chair, Ozawa will be remembered as the bulldozer of Japanese politics feared in Tokyo but not appreciated in the countryside, while Kan is seen as the hostage of bureaucracy (especially the Ministry of Finance) and corporations practices that he pretended to crush in the first place after he denied the 2009 Manifesto that brought his party to power. "Raison d'être" of the ex Shadow Shogun's anger who finally got his gun out.

Ozawa's disappointment towards Mr. Kan is not stranger to the fact that Mr. Ozawa's team wrote the Manifesto and offered the victory in an historic election last year after 50 years of LDP rule. Consequence: the DPJ might very well be divided in the end, and loose strength for action plan.

"Lock the Parliament members in a TV studio and let's work on concrete", this comment from a keen Japan watcher (not a bureaucrat!) caught my smile while trying to analyze the chances of each of the candidates. Who ever wins, the bottom-line is that a majority of the people will continue to keep distance from Nagatacho' s hill drama making machinery, while the "new virtualists" are to vote according to the media's power games with the usual "Dentsu type campaign" emotional touch, persuaded that their worlds and spaces are immune to corporate and state control.

This is where the irony is. Japanese politicians succeeded in having the sublime confidence of the media but not of the Japanese electorate who does not ask for growth -- Japan is not a developing economy-- but simply requests from their nation leaders to guarantee the sustainability of their standard of living and not to shift their life according to the "exchange value" paradigm.

Ozawa (L) Kan (R)

Better offer the quill to the concerned people with a few quotes of the Asahi Shimbun which I found had the best commentary in today's press after Nihon Kisha club's debate I followed with other foreign correspondents and diplomats yesterday both in Japanese and English at the Foreign Press Center.

Quotes of Asahi' s Shinichi Sano's commentary:

"Ozawa has a talent for presenting himself as larger than life, and that may be the extent of his political prowess. The media are also guilty of overrating him and creating a divisive paradigm that pitted Ozawa supporters against Ozawa haters. One was either pro-Ozawa or anti-Ozawa.


In terms of background, Kan is a completely different breed of politician from Hatoyama and Ozawa. But having been thrown into a "playhouse" founded by these two former LDP politicians, Kan found himself obliged to act in manners reminiscent of LDP politics. In short, Kan, too, has become trapped in the old paradigm of pro-Ozawa versus anti-Ozawa.


The current DPJ is not even functioning as a political party. For the DPJ to become functional, it is actually a blessing that Kan and Ozawa are fighting it out in the presidential election.


The LDP, for its part, must be insane not to seize this huge opportunity to take the offensive. Yet LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki has done nothing with this one-in-a-million chance at hand.


Now, the public remains cool toward the DPJ presidential election, in sharp contrast to the overheated coverage by the media. So far, the election has exposed not only the "lightness" of Ozawa, Kan and Hatoyama, but also the immaturity of the media that have failed to correctly understand the sentiments of the public." End of quotes.

Mainichi, Yomiuri, Nikkei, Reporter's notes.

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