Table Speech

Japanese politics in 2005

December 8th,2004

Mr. Shigetada Kishii,
An executive of the Mainichi Press and extraordinary member of the editorial staff

The Bush election, continued warfare in Iraq, negotiations with North Korea have all influenced our politics, but the Diet meetings have ended and it is felt that Prime Minister Koizumi’s government will remain for the remainder of his term.

One reason for this is the re-election of President Bush. For those opposing Koizumi, their greatest hope was Bush’s defeat. Although it had not been thought that if Kerry won their would be a drastic change in America policy, Bush’s victory saved Koizumi.

The other day, I was talking with a Prefect Governor who told me that Koizumi’s trinity program had been resolved without his direct participation.

The party took the responsibility preventing clashes between the central offices and the prefectures and also between the Prime Minister’s secretariat and the party.

In the newspapers recently, the so-called 3K’s (Kato, Kamei, Koga) have been highly critical in their interview of Koizumi’s policies regarding sending Self Defense Force members to Iraq and our economy, but their views are not being accepted by the party. The 3K’s say that the mainstay members of the Diet are afraid of the elections, and one cannot serve as a politician being afraid of being elected.

I am not sure whether the younger members of the Diet are afraid of being re-elected or not but they certainly do not want elections to be held.

The opposing party also does not want an early election, so we are experiencing a moratorium. Unusually, there are no elections scheduled in the coming two years for both the Upper and Lower House.

Many things have changed in the past 10 years. When we had middle sized constituencies factions would be formed to elevate a person for a Prime Minister. Today, with our smaller constituencies, the Diet members first aim is to defeat the opponent, so they do not desire clashes within their party.
On the other hand, the fall of the Communist and Social Democrat parties is beyond belief. Our newspapers no longer mention the parties opposing each other as conservatives versus the reformists. The Democratic Party now stands for the opposition.

I call their plan the ‘Hop, step and jump’ program for taking over the government. The general election last year was their hop, the upper house election this year was their jump, and actual election in which they desire to take over government as their jump.

In last year’s election, they fared well by increasing 40 seats, but they did not come close to taking over. Our people have not given them a majority in polls that have been conducted.

The Democratic Party must consider well their plans for overtaking the ruling Liberal Democrats, but in doing so, they will approach the platform of their opposition. 12 years have passed since Prime Minister Miyazawa lost the election and a coalition cabinet was formed. Since then we have had 7 Prime Ministers and Koizumi is the 8th, and he has remained in power for 3 years.
There are two reasons for his losing power, and that is 1, a scandal, and 2, defeat in an election. Regarding politics, the greatest issue at present is whether the Prime Minister can carry his party to victory in the coming election.

The strength of Koizumi lies in his public support. When he started public support was 80 to 90%. It halved when he fired Foreign Minister Tanaka but since then it has never dipped lower than 40%. This is quite important as in the past, a stable regime normally had the support ratio of 30%.

The dilemma of the Liberal Democrat Party lies in the fact that Koizumi is trying to do away with the weaker elements of the party. There is a 10% gap between support for Koizumi and support for the Liberal Democratic Party. The 10% difference is from the non-Liberal Democratic Party voters and the anti-Liberal Democrat undecided voters.

There is a great difference between the Diet members who come from localities where there is strong support for the Liberal Democrats and the cities where it is weak, but both do not wish to lose the 40% supporting votes.

It is difficult for the party to find a replacement for Koizumi who will obtain 40% support. That is why Koizumi will remain secure for the length of his term.
Let me tell you of some differences which have come about in the past 10 years.
One is the fact that the radicals have lost power, with their votes going to the Democratic Party and forming a dual party political arena. This should accelerate the moves for re-writing our Constitution.

The second is regarding our Self Defense Forces. They have been sent overseas on a peace keeping mission for the first time. Our Naval Forces now patrol the Indian Ocean as a member of the anti-terrorist forces.

This has been made possible by the passing of time limitation laws by the Diet. The actuality has created situations not foreseen when our Constitution was drawn up. We can no longer evade the issue of amending our Constitution, and this will be taken up in our editorials to which I hope you will pay your attention.

It is said that in the world of politics, there is total darkness only a few inches ahead. In the political arena, the factions have lost their base in the struggle for power. There are 3 conditions for a successful faction to meet, and they are 1. A popularly recognized leader 2. Money 3. The power to make appointments. But today, there are no leaders to take over from Koizumi.

Second, today the party control the funds, and no longer the factions.

Third, Koizumi today is the one making appointments. So unseen to everyone, Koizumi has been winning his battles in the struggle to gain authority.
In this struggle, it was Koizumi versus Nonaka, but Nonaka has left the field by retiring. There are no longer past Prime Ministers who can affect the political picture today. I am sure that Koizumi has gained great confidence in himself at the end of this year’s Diet sessions. But this may be a pitfall, but in the political arena, Koizumi’s regime will continue.