Saturday, June 05, 2010

Elected Kan stirs DPJ's factions' war after Ozawa 150 MPs' defeat

Ichiro Ozawa, the shadow shogun, ousted?

Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) legislators close to former DPJ Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa are intensifying their struggle opposition against Prime Minister-elect Naoto Kan. The opposition of this DPJ faction comes after the Kan appointement of Yukio Edano, former state minister for government revitalization and a staunch Ozawa opponent, to succeed Ozawa as Democratic party secretary-general.

With the House of Councillors election looming this summer, Kan aims to recover the declining public support rate for the government and the DPJ by projecting an anti-Ozawa image. But such a strategy could adversely affect the stability of the administration, only boosting discontent among members of the pro-Ozawa group.

Ozawa's faction agitation is next move. He and his 150 MPs' to act in the shadow until September DPJ convention leadership election. Ozawa will strike again...

Sources: Reporter's notes

Friday, June 04, 2010

Naoto KAN elected today as Japan New Prime Minister!

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

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
of power.

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,

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Japan Prime Minister Hatoyama Resignation: Who’s the Pigeon?

Yukio Hatoyama high-up following his resignation...

Everyone! Remain calm! Mr Ozawa is in charge and Kan will run as I wrote yesterday on this blog.

Update: Thursday June 3rd

May 27, the day before the announcement of the new base relocation accord, Koshiishi had been joined by only a handful of other DPJ lawmakers in pressuring Hatoyama to step down. "What are they going to do by dismissing Hatoyama? They have no strategy for afterward," an aide to Hatoyama said at the time. But the tide changed after the prime minister kicked SDP chief Mizuho Fukushima out of his Cabinet for her refusal to endorse the government's relocation policy Friday and the tiny party decided to leave his coalition Sunday in protest. Many DPJ lawmakers then began openly criticizing the party leader. According to the sources, Ozawa, who had been silent about the moves within the party, finally instructed his aides on Sunday -- "It's OK now to move to oust Hatoyama." Other testimony suggesting Ozawa's willingness to sack Hatoyama suggested the DPJ secretary general made an inquiry around that time about whether there had been any cases in which an attestation ceremony for new Cabinet members had been held at the Imperial Palace on a Sunday. It was obvious that Ozawa, who often says "a political vacuum is not permissible," was preparing for the possible launch this coming Sunday of a post-Hatoyama Cabinet, the sources said." (Sources: Kyodo news dispatch)

Well, all of it was expected since 48 hours. The biography of the ex-prime minister Hatoyama is rolling uninterrupted on the TVs' in a record timing. Everyone was quickly ready right after Prime Minister Hatoyama announced his resignation on a special TV broadcast. Under a beautiful spring sun, Tokyo seemed to have been not that much disturbed. The stock index, the Nikkei, lost just 1,12% while the Euro quoted 1 $ 22, 112 Yen 10 and the $ closed at 91 Yen.

Unaffected, after the US Japan cold on the Okinawa - Futenma US bases, and the scandals on political donations, the markets, the Japanese bureaucracy, the ordinary Japanese, expected this move.

Hatoyama resignation was not such a shock for 75% of the insular as they already gave up hopes in politics, 9 months after not quite seeing any change into their purse and plate following the historic (and hysterical) victory of the Democrats versus the Liberals. Now what is going wrong with all these prime minister who give up one after the other in Japan!!? (Abe, Aso in LDP, now Hatoyama -- 'pigeon mountain' in Japanese language-- for the DPJ)

"Et maintenant"?

The ruling Democratic Party of Japan who has a majority at both chambers of the Parliament will now choose its new leader this Friday, June 4th, and a new Cabinet is likely to be launched Monday June 7th. Contenders? As I wrote on this blog, there is his Deputy Naoto KAN, or the Transport minister Seiji Maehara, Foreign Minister Okada, Yoshito Sengoku, the national strategy minister, (not the appeal type but what Japan needs now is not a bella figura, but a man able to deliver politics to seduce the flocks), he is a socialist minded. Also on line a couple of younger such as Kazuhiro Haraguchi (who denied he would run). Haraguchi like Maehara are the free-market policies types, and he is known for calls to shift policy responsibilities away from the central government and offer more to regions. A call that could attract the local municipalities harshly slaughtered since years by successive national government policies.

The favorite Japanese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Naoto KAN will NOT likely attend a planned meeting of Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers in South Korea this weekend, because he will participate to the Democratic Party inner presidential elections to select the "candidate".

What is coming after, constitutionally speaking. First is the question about Ichiro Ozawa. Will he or not "let go". He certainly left his position at the DPJ as Party de facto "boss". But... he is known to favor best strategy for election, a job he occupied since 20 years when he worked at the top ladder of the LDP, and his knowledge to organize an election is fundamental. He is said to have provoked Hatoyama resignation, there is much speculation on his future role in mapping the July election. Without Ozawa, the Democratic party is in turmoil.


"A leadership election will be held Friday, and the Cabinet is likely to be organized and (a new prime minister) is likely to give an inaugural address Monday," Ozawa said during the meeting, which was held shortly after Prime Minister and DPJ President Yukio Hatoyama announced his decision to resign. The council members decided at the same meeting that the DPJ would hold a general meeting of DPJ Diet members on Friday to choose a new leader, who will succeed Hatoyama as prime minister, according to participants. Once the new leader is elected prime minister in the Diet, that person will pick others as members of the new Cabinet. The officers also confirmed that all members on the council will resign, including Ozawa, the participants said. A DPJ president is normally elected with votes from party lawmakers, party members and supporters.

But party rules stipulate that in the event of a vacancy in the post in the middle of a leader's tenure, a new president can be chosen at a general meeting at which party lawmakers will cast their votes. Such a system is preferred when the Diet is in session because the formal leadership election process takes several weeks to complete. Rules used to pick a party leader at a general meeting are devised in each such election. In the last leadership election in May last year, which was held upon Ozawa's resignation over a funds scandal, candidates who collected endorsements from 20 or more party lawmakers filed their candidacy. Hatoyama was then elected in a secret ballot among party lawmakers. A party leader's tenure is normally two years, but a leader chosen at a general meeting serves the remainder of the predecessor's term. Hatoyama's term lasts until the end of September, essentially the end of the tenure of his predecessor Ozawa. Whoever is chosen at the meeting of party lawmakers on Friday will therefore have to stand again in another leadership election by the end of September.

Ozawa Ichiro VDO

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Hatoyama cabinet reshuffle announced for... Wednesday

Deputy Prime Minister Naoto KAN, possible successor to HATOYAMA

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama appears to be resisting calls for him to step down, as leaders of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, including Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, aim to continue talks. What seems to be the problem? Tuesday night at the Diet, prime minister Hatoyama, Party boss Ozawa and the go between DPJ's upper house caucus leader Azuma Koshiishi entertained the TV cameras. The nation is governed. Hatoyama smiled and rose his thumb quickly, while Ozawa, forgetting his cardiovascular limitations opted for the 100 yards race speed, while slaloming through the vernacular TVs' press reporters, agitated as jolting Pachinko balls.

First impression, 35 minutes meeting. Short. Hirano was not asked to join. His face looked longer and he seemed so tired. Ozawa appeared quite angered when he left the Diet room, same kindness on the face as when he had entered.

Then while suspicion and speculation haunted the corridors of the Diet, Japanese TV cameras blocked in a corner the DPJ Vice Secretary General Goshi Hosono who told reporters after the talks that the three lawmakers will hold another meeting and promised that the secretary general will meet the press once some kind of decision is reached.

Meanwhile, most of Hatoyama's Cabinet members expressed their support for the prime minister, including Finance Minister Naoto Kan, who is viewed as the frontrunner to succeed Hatoyama.

But what appears is that relations seem more and more strained between Ozawa and Hatoyama. And what does an Ozawa do when he is angry? He sacks, he marvels, he breaks and sometimes self demolishes himself...

A couple of weeks ago at the "press club" in Tokyo, I asked Naoto Kan, deputy premier, during our luncheon- press conference if he would "have the guts to assume the duty of prime minister" after the "Henoko Futenma" issues turned into vinegar, not only for the cornerstone partner, but also for the Japanese media commentators (who guide the Japanese opinion like muttons to the cliff prior to jump into the ocean.)

To my surprise Kan did not say no, but his comment was to candidly state the "he always believed that Hatoyama should and could serve 4 years of mandate."


Ah the Old Days are gone, when one evening of September 2009, the world thought that "it was it", I did too. Didn't I?

To end this unbearable suspense which thrills the foreign chancelleries, which is the first time in months, I end with the last manga character here, the most comic politician of Japanese Diet, he also happens to be one of the most payed politician of the game, Shizuka Kamei, ex-policeman, against the death penalty --he certainly has things to fear hmmm... Jake?--

Kamei is the leader of the People's New Party, ex LDP, ex friend of the ex Peruvian president currently jailed for numerous crimes Fujimori. Shizuka Kamei softly stabbed Hatoyama in the back, he and his lilliputian political group is DPJ's remaining coalition partner. Kamei made phone calls to Hatoyama twice yesterday night to tell Hatoyama that "nothing will change even if you step down!" With partners like Kamei who clearly understood the "paradigm" of Japanese politics, we all can sleep on both our ears.

In between if Japanese political world is looking for a model-hero, maybe best to look at the classics and why not to the unforgivable Astroboy. He reminds me of somebody actually.

To be continued!

Sources: Reporters' notes and cautious confidential comments from the Kokkai stage.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Hatoyama cabinet reshuffle announced for Tuesday

Mizuho Fukushima and Kiyomi Tsujimoto axed from Hatoyama cabinet of tripartite ruling coalition, who's next?

Even-though Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama reiterated on Monday his resolve to remain in power, calls for his resignation increased among lawmakers of his ruling Democratic Party of Japan ahead of the forthcoming House of Councillors election July 11. In crucial Diet action, the Social Democratic Party also made clear it will side with the opposition camp after deciding to leave the ruling coalition. The latest meeting between Ozawa Ichiro the strong man of the DPJ and the prime minister, lame, did not allow enough time (or agreement) to address the cabinet crisis.

Hatoyama, president of the DPJ, is under growing pressure to step down to take responsibility for the current political situation. In a Kyodo News survey conducted over the weekend, 51.2 percent of respondents said Hatoyama should resign as prime minister compared with 44.4 percent who said he does not need to step down. Public support for his Cabinet hit a new low at 19.1 percent. "I understand I have caused problems," Hatoyama said. "But I want to continue to work for the sake of the Japanese people." DPJ Senior Vice Secretary General Yoshimitsu Takashima told reporters there are "overwhelming" calls for the premier's resignation among upper house lawmakers of the DPJ. Takahiro Yokomichi, speaker of the Upper House opposed any idea of removing Hatoyama and replace him by Naoto Kan or the foreign minister Okada.

So 1) who will pay the price of the Futenma lost battle by the Hatoyama administration with the US government? 2) Who will pay the bill for the break-up of the government coalition? Voices are that the Chief cabinet secretary Hirofumi Hirano would be the sheep sacrificed on the altar of the Diet on Tuesday later in the day. Ozawa and Hatoyama are to meet again on Tuesday after Hatoyama gets back from his quick visit to Miyazaki-ken inspection on the foot and mouth disease that crippled Japan's southern province cattle.

Crippled coalition too? Visit symbolic enough to describe how the government is weakened for having refused to show that national sovereignty and respect of campaign pledges are 2 things not to break unless you want to alienate your voters and supporters...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

NPT nuclear weapons agreement: Hiroshima and Nagasaki flabbergasted

UNITED NATIONS fruitful negotiations, the first in ten years or revision, over the future of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended with 189 nations affirming their commitment to eliminating all nuclear weapons and setting a new 2012 deadline for holding a regional conference to eliminate unconventional weapons from the Middle East.

Tensions over the content of the final document after a month of negotiations went down to the wire, with diplomats portraying the last few days as a poker game with the United States and Iran each trying to call the other’s bluff so that one might be blamed for the failure of the conference to reach consensus.

Also in the end, the United States accepted the reference to Israel in the final document, in the section on the Middle East, which basically repeats a previously stated position that Israel should join the 40 year old nonproliferation treaty.

The Israeli government has never confirmed the widespread consensus that it holds at least 100 nuclear missiles. It rejected the agreement quoting the 189 nations' decision as "biased" . The NPT document emphasizes the need for countries to respect treaty guidelines for keeping their nuclear programs open to international inspection and suffering the consequences if they do not. In a letter made public Wednesday, May 6, Yukiya Amano, Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), urged members of the organization to reflect on how to convince Israel to sign the Treaty Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In a speech after the document was adopted, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, the Iranian envoy, listed at least nine ways in which Iran thought the document was weak. A proposed 2025 deadline for the elimination of all nuclear weapons had been scuttled by the nuclear weapons states, he noted, as had a proposal for a legally binding commitment from states with nuclear weapons not to use them against those without.

Although the document singles out North Korea by name, for example, saying its nuclear program constitutes a threat to “peace and security,” it was not as strong as the condemnation initially proposed. Aside from Israel, the document also calls on India and Pakistan, both holding nuclear weapons but not nonproliferation treaty members, to join it. While rejecting a deadline, for the first time the main five nuclear weapons states accepted vague language referring to a new, stronger international convention on eliminating nuclear weapons, and the idea of a “timeline” was introduced.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki ask for specific timelines

The bombing of Nagasaki took place Aug 9, 1945, three days after Hiroshima was hit. Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba said it is regrettable that the NPT review conference, which ended Friday after adopting a final document, failed to incorporate in the text "specific timelines for starting nuclear disarmament negotiations."

Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two Japanese cities attacked with atomic bombs by the United States during World War II, expressed disappointment Saturday at the content of a final document adopted at the latest nuclear nonproliferation conference, saying the text has been watered down due to nuclear powers’ resistance to taking significant disarmament steps.

Sakue Shimohira, 75, who survived the bombing of Nagasaki: "I regret that the discussions lost (initial) momentum, but I won’t allow myself to be discouraged by this." Shimohira, who made a speech during the just-ended U.N. conference reviewing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in New York: ‘‘I hope young people will act to make Nagasaki the last place to have been attacked by nuclear arms.’’ Whole report

I found this document on the web and this is an extract from a film and the vision of hell on earth. Audience, beware! Some scenes do not fit all viewers.

Sources: Wire news services, NY Times, Nel Observateur,
Haaretz, Huffington Post, Afrique en ligne, Mainichi daily news,
Reporter's notes.