Saturday, February 17, 2007

Kenichi Mizuno, LDP Rebel of Many and Varied Causes, Fights the Law (and METI); Comes Out Even

"The Japanese Government Appeals Verdict in the Energy Consumption Data Disclosure Law Suit

On Feb. 13, the Japanese Government filed an appeal with the Osaka High Court seeking to overturn the Osaka District Court verdict that had reversed a decision by the Ministry of Economy not to disclose parts of energy consumption data gathered from businesses under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Law. The plaintiff, environmental organization "Climate Network", had brought the lawsuit against METI to seek nullification.

Kenichi Mizuno, the Justice Deputy Minister who had supported disclsure and opposed the appeal, refused to put his seal on the ducment authorizing the deicision to appeal. Justeice Minister Nagase, the ultimate decider, signed off, and the appeal was duly filed.

Mr. Mizuno said on the same day, "As a member of the government, I will obey the decision to appeal. During the course of the case, I will speak up as necessary."

(translated from Yomiuri Feb. 13 article)

Kenichi Mizuno's one-man rebellion first came to light when the Yomiuri noticed that the Deputy Minister had posted his opposition on his website of all places and wrote it up on Feb. 11.

Mr. Mizuno's bio reads like a typical LDP Diet member. The biological son of retired politician Eichi Nakao, a three-time cabinet member from Yamanashi Prefecture, he grew up and went to school in Tokyo, then was adopted by Kiyoshi Mizuno, another Diet member from Chiba Prefecture (one assumes he married the elder Mizuno's daughter; his website gives no personal information beyond his date of birth, education and public offices he has held; unusual for a politician, particularly when his contemporaries are trying so hard to endear themselves to their electorate), and was elected in 1999 to the Lower House after one unsuccessful try At the age of forty, he is already into his fourth term.

Mr. Mizuno is pro-democracy, pro-Taiwan. Perhaps he inherits this from his fiery biological father, who became known early in his Diet career for his militancy as a member of the Seirankai (Blue Storm Group: Shintaro Ishihara and Michio Watanabe, as well as Shoichi Nakagawa's father, were also members). He is also a hardliner with North Korea. He is pro-death penalty. All these are typical conservative heritage LDP positions.

But he is more than that. At the beginning of his political life, before he apprenticed as the elder Mizuno's secretary, he spent time under Al Gore (yes, that Al Gore) learning politics. Which came first I have no way of knowing, but Mr. Mizuno is himself strongly pro-environment. In fact, 23 of 60 posts on his "Kenchi's Opinions" page are environment-related, and five of them deal with this particular disclosure battle, which he adopted as his own, with METI.

That's not all that separates him from the run-of-the-mill conservative. He has also come out strongly in favor of female emperors, as well as allowing spouses (meaning usually wives) to legally keep their surnames after marriage. I am not naming names, but these are positions that infuriate the typical hardcore nationalist conservative.

What would have come to pass if the irresistible force hadn't been able to deke its way around this immovable object? Actually, this is not the first time Mr. Mizuno has faced such a dilemma. In 2002, he resigned as parliamentary secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when he was refused permission to visit Taiwan. Presumably, he would not have hesitated to do the same if it came to that. Fortunately, the Abe adminstration was spared yet another ignominy.

So what kind of a future does Mr. Mizuno have in the LDP? The curious lack of personal information on his website bothers me. He is, after all, a politician. (Case in point: Condoleezza Rice's absolute shroud of secrecy over her private life that she has maintained is one reason I believe she will not run for office, ever.) And it's just a guess, but the 2002 rebellion may have led to his 2006 assignment to the Justice Ministry, relatively low in the order of desirability as deputy minister posts go.

But this incident did put this relatively obscure diet member's marker on the board. In another ten, twenty years, we will know if his principled positions, obvious intelligence, eloquence and good looks will have carried him to the political heights, or merely enabled him to carve out a niche as one of those colorful characters that the LDP throws up every so often

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