Saturday, February 05, 2011

Japan, a Democracy?

This message gives a short but accurate presentation of the problem generally viewed and simply asked with this question:
Is Japan a Democracy? Question often misused for malicious purposes.

This is why I found these answers from people I know quite interesting, I post it here for the record and the activation of the never ending debate since Ruth Benedict tentatively explored the archipelago psyche.

Benedict, an anthropologist and cultural relativist "is known not only for her earlier Patterns of Culture but also for her later book The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, the study of the society and culture of Japan that she published in 1946, incorporating results of her war-time research."

In other words, after the war, the occupant forces, mainly the US, tried to understand the islands they controlled as the cold war started... or should I say, had started at the bombing of Hiroshima when a devastated Japan was a prey to be submitted to Allied forces and dominated as in any colonial war registry. Japan today is still a base for tens of thousands of American troops and equipments to deter China and Russia and to act as a base for the 7th fleet. The western view of an acting gendarme of Asia. Some politicians wanted to review such thing, they basically ended into corruption scandals or tricky plots. Prime minister Hatoyama was the last one of these victims.

The thing is going on and on, asked by armies of scholars and propagandists, Japan is not a democracy similar to the west. Not it's not. It's different indeed. It integrated portions of our western parliamentary systems after the war. I do not know any one in Japan who could tell me eyes in eyes that it did not approve of this changes from a military dictatorship in 1945 to a more "normal" middle class society of salary-men, happy with theories born in the western world.

Theories from Ricardo and Adam Smith, following Condorcet, Marmontel, Malesherbes, d'Alembert --"Preliminary Discourse of l'Encyclopédie" a history of the Enlightenment -- and the work of the French Academies *** of the century of the Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th century--Montesquieu, Buffon (1 generation before Charles Darwin), Jean-Jacques Rousseau le Genevois, Diderot, Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse, etc. --

Theories adopted in Japan later for a development of the economy proper to avoid further political claims on international affairs and led mainly by civil servants and scholars.

The "chat" was posted on the NBR forum, a forum for Japan watchers.


'Can Japan truly be understood as a democracy' -
compared to which democracy? Is there a benchmark out

Schumpeter's famous definition is that 'the democratic
method is that institutional arrangement for arriving
at political decisions in which individuals acquire
the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle
for the people's vote'. To this more procedural
definition, we may also add normative factors, in that
a democratic system promotes equality, fairness, and

Japan's system of governance does fall short of these
benchmarks: the fact that 40% of Diet members are
second-generation children may be an indication that
the pathways to political power are more open to some
than others - they say to get yourself voted you need
jiban (support base usually daddy's), kanban (name
value again, daddy's fame helps), kaban (money!).
Furthermore, the rural votes carry greater weight than
urban votes; and so on.

Yet, many countries equally fall short: in the UK, the
political elite have become increasingly dominated by
a small handfull of rich, private school-educated
elites (just look at Blair, Cameron, Clegg, or
Osbourne); the first-past-the post system leads to
tactical voting, rather than a genuine expression of
political will; it (again) leads to differences in the
weight certain votes carry. Furthermore,
parliamentary sovereignty means that judicial checks
on the legislative are much weaker compared to, say,
the US. Meanwhile in the US, the enormous costs of
running for public office also limits citizens' access
to political power, as well as giving political donors
a lot of power in influencing the political agenda in
comparison to others. Do all these systems give
citizens political equality? Are they inclusive? I
think not?

So, I would be inclined to say that Japan is a
democracy, albeit a flawed one, just like any other
country that we would conventionally understand to be
a 'liberal democracy' today. It's not perfect, but
the democratic theoretical ideal has been extremely
difficult to implement in practice throughout the
world, and the existence of powerful vested interests
have meant that reforming these problems has, and will
remain, difficult. Japan is no exception to this, and
neither is the US, the UK, or any other democracy. I
would also add that 'the Japanese' do not 'tolerate'
or 'perpetuate' a 'premodern' political system: a
quick look at the lively political debates that take
place in Japanese civil society would suggest quite
the opposite from this.

Perhaps the fundamental point here is that 'the
Japanese' are no more uniquely undemocratic that the
rest, and neither is 'the West' (US/Europe)
exceptionally 'more democratic' than the rest. Shogo
Suzuki University of Manchester"

And the 2nd comment of author and essayist Gregory


No one who lives in Japan and understands Japanese can
fail to be impressed by not just the liveliness but
also the sincerity, civility and relative lack of
point scoring in the almost daily policy debates in
the media, mainly TV, here between top politicians and
the commentators.

In some respects Japan's democracy IS 'pre-modern' -
based on the communality of the village society. And
while that allows distortions that our Western
democracies would not tolerate - feudalistic power-
brokers able to buy or corral voters, for example - it
should also make Western democracies consider whether
the point-scoring antagonism, lobby-fueled attack ads
etc, of their own systems represent true democracy.
Gregory Clark.

The discussion on the forum started after a chilly
comment of Bob Neff:


"Two recent high court rulings in Japan make me wonder
whether this is a true democracy. Both courts ruled
that recent elections unconstitutional because of
disproportionate electoral districts. This is a
ritual that has been going on for decades and has been
virtually ignored by the government. When the U.S.
supreme court ruled in the 1960s fir "one man, one
vote," it took Congress very little time to prescribe
major redistricting. I would invite informed analysis
on how and why supreme court decisions in Japan can be
so regularly ignored. "

End of Nbr quotes

*** The history of Academies in France during the Enlightenment begins with the Academy of Science, founded in 1635 in Paris. From the beginning, the Academy was closely tied to the French state, acting as an extension of a government seriously lacking in scientists. Beyond serving the monarchy, the Academy had two primary purposes: it helped promote and organize new disciplines, and it trained new scientists. It also contributed to the enhancement of scientists’ social status, considered them to be the “most useful of all citizens".

A national and regional institution, example, the Academy of Caen, Normandy. Established in 1652. Caen, the "Norman Athens, with a long literary cultural tradition, was enthusiastically created the first Academy in the provinces after the fondation of the Paris Academie Française. Furthermore came the establishment in Caen of the first Academy of Physics in France (1662) which, although short- lived, preceded by four years the foundation of the Académie des Sciences in Paris."

Reporter's notes
NBR forum

Monday, January 31, 2011

Downfall of a Shadowed-Shogun, Ichiro Ozawa indicted for accounting fraud!

Often compared to the French politician Talleyrand
Ozawa Ichiro today indicted over fund misreporting

In Japan it is a political shock, a major political turmoil! I was told by reliable sources about this sure thing 2011 indictment of Ozawa, it was a while ago, then again a few days ago and it was confirmed to me very recently. This morning, I uploaded on my facebook wall a picture of an evanescent Geisha of Niigata to alarm my friends and colleagues. Then, 2 hours after, NHK announced the indictment of Ozawa. Why a picture of a Niigata Geisha? Because Niigata was the constituency or Tanaka Kakuei, the symbol of the money politics and Ryotei expensive "Japanese restaurants behind the scenes" system.

Today, Japan attempts to secure, at great risks and expenses, a temporary end to the logic of the era of Niigata strong man Kakuei Tanaka who stated that "Democracy-is-about-numbers." It is a dangerous choice for the Kan administration when knowing who the distinguished target's pedigree is.

It might certainly take 2 to 3 years to investigate the case, paralyzing Ozawa's obsession with power and politics, but the shadow shogun might have lost one battle he certainly did not loose the war. Just an interlude.

This latest scandal targets Ozawa's political funds management body called Rikuzankai. "It's alleged to have failed to report in 2004 and 2005, the use of 400 million yen which had been transferred to its account. It had used 340 million yen to buy land in Tokyo." Then to the general surprise, the Tokyo prosecutors dismissed his indictment, but a prosecution review commission of lay juries decided twice that he should be indicted. Here we are now.

DPJ founder and Parliament member, Ozawa Ichiro became at 46 the youngest secretary-general of the LDP, the Liberal Democratic Party. But he also made (and sometimes broke) several prime ministers, Tanaka, Takeshita, Kaifu, Miyazawa -the Americans hated him for this one- and instigated a more assertive Japanese type of politics, more distant from the USA, closer to China, the rising power of North East Asia. A more reformist Japan while handled by tricky and fuzzy decisions murmured behind thick curtains.

Ozawa is the first who weakened the LDP after 38 years of power and opened the road to success for the reformists. It worked clumsily with Morihiro Hosokawa - heir of an Edo era Lord- early 90's, in the first attempt to break the uninterrupted rule of the LDP party and a system. It was called "the 1955 system."

It took then several years for Ozawa to build a legitimate alternative to LDP in dividing the party, and bringing together leftists and rightists, in this estrange maelstrom of politicians reunited into a program surnamed "the DPJ manifesto". Its ideas brought DPJ to power in 2009, Yukio Hatoyama became prime minister. A first.

But similar to all tragedies, including what happened to the French Revolution, Danton and Robespierre ended chopped off, or as in a Freudian explanation where the son kills the father, it is the ex-leftist and current prime minister Kan who struggles with the abusive political godfather Ozawa and kicks him today out of politics for a minor fraud on money politics, a so called "alleged misreporting of political funds."

Not much of a case, lawyers say. A lot of dangers ahead for Mr Kan. The question is will the DPJ take punitive measures against Ozawa, will Ozawa voluntarily leave the party or will he take dozens of politicians with him and possibly formulate a new party and decapitate his doubtful DPJ heirs from the supreme political power?

Nagatacho Hill, where the Diet and the Executive power are located, already knows that Ozawa Ichiro the "kingpin" will escape, get a non-guilty verdict and draw the line of an other political party, founded by him and his appointed skillful and ruthless to be, successor. Ozawa is very rich in political donations

Ozawa, the fan of Samurai drama and Geisha restaurants is a romantic-branded character by western writers - Karel Van Wolferen is preparing a book about Ozawa Ichiro- Ozawa worships the cult of heroes. He admires Okubo Toshimichi and Ito Hirobumi who have built a modern Japan during the Meiji Revolution late 19th Century.

Ozawa Ichiro is a chapter of Japanese contemporary history, maybe the most accurate visionary doted of the strongest will, a child born in Mizusawa, Iwate prefecture, as 3 other famous examples of ambitions and realization, Takano Choei, Saito Makoto and Goto Shimpei, scholars and politicians... But most certainly he identifies with a distant relation Takeda Shingen, the 16th Century Samurai hero of the "Warring States" period. To all Japanese it means Ozawa is prepared and well known for his mastery of the politics and battlefield strategies! More dangerous than ever.

This is where we are now in Tokyo. It will be a never ending fire-cracks, sharp tricks and fights for the months ahead and similar to the Japanese Samurais traditions, a lot of leaders will soon bear cuts on their "careers, plans and bodies."

To be continued.
Reporter's Notes and quotes.
Leaders and Leadership in Japan.

Creative Commons License
Downfall of a Shadowed-Shogun, Ichiro Ozawa indicted for accounting fraud! by Asian Gazette Blog of Joel Legendre-Koizumi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Crises en Afrique du Nord et au Proche-Orient

La théorie des dominos

On y est en plein. En plus "ils ont la haine". Et ce qu'on voit d'Asie c'est qu'après les pays de l'Est, c'est au tour du Proche et Moyen Orient. Mais sans la méthode Bush Cheney et leurs amis du pétrole et de l'armement, non merci. (Irak, Afghanistan)

Donc! Place aux réformateurs! Yémen, Egypte, Jordanie, Tunisie et Algérie. Les USA encouragent ces réformes pour l'Afrique du nord, PO et MO, ils l'ont dit très clairement (Obama, Gates), une période de transition est en vue avec une nouvelle direction dans ces pays?

En Egypte? Les traditions sont pesantes, un gouvernement demain devra-t-il encore être soutenu par l'armée? Nasser a commencé, Sadate et Moubarak ont perpétué la tradition. Donc le groupe qui attend au tournant aura-t-il aussi le soutien de l'armée? Et si oui alors on peut craindre d'autres affrontements, des batailles de rue et cela va donc "justifier", comme ils disent, une intervention armée et police.

Période très dangereuse. Il faut travailler aux solutions au PO et Afr d N, sinon... Bain de sang. Une fois trouvée, normalisation, quelques plans d'actions, gagner du temps, et nouvelle équipe. Ce sera du temporaire comme un Tunisie? Et puis en Egypte, Moubarak va bien devoir se retirer.

Ensuite soutien des USA aux nouveaux dirigeants, et comme toujours, des relations "privilégiées" genre USA Arabie Saoudite. Le Japon la Chine, concernés, vont banquer avec leurs extraordinaires ressources financières et le Japon politiquement et financièrement suivra tout ce que demandera Washington.

Wikileaks va s'en donner à coeur joie...

Reporter's notes 28 Janvier 2011