Friday, July 13, 2007

The Upper House Election Kicks Off. Plus an Update on Mr. Fujimori.


But most damaging to Mr. Abe has been the revelation that over the years the government has lost pension records affecting about 50 million claims.

"Mr. Abe has pledged to shake up the Social Insurance Agency, the department responsible for the mistakes, and to sort out the mess by early next year, our correspondent [in Tokyo, Chris Hogg,] says.

"But it is not yet clear whether that would be enough to reassure angry voters.

"The ruling coalition has a majority in the lower house, and defeat in Upper House polls would not directly threaten the government.

But, analysts say, it would be an embarrassment to Mr. Abe and one that could force him from office."
BBC 07/07/12

The 2007 Upper House election began yesterday. As the BBC article dutifully lists, many bad things have happened that on their own might have denied the LDP-Komeito coalition a majority in the post-election Upper House. But the public pension scandal is like the cake under the icing. However, it is clear that a pledge for an early resolution of the issue has only added fuel to the fire because it has become clear that the actual accounts will take many more years to untangle. The article should have focused on the substance of the LDP response and public response to it. I suspect that Chris Hoggs is on vacation.

The BBC article also seems to assume that this is a straight, electoral win-loss situation. But the numbers game has now boiled down to this one question: Will Mr. Abe be able to cobble together a working majority in the Upper House? If he doesn't, his days are numbered; even if does not resign within the week. If he does, he will live to fight another day.

The numbers do not look good for him so far. The most recent polls show the Abe Cabinet and the LDP sliding and the lackluster DPJ edging forward. Ichiro Ozawa may be personally unpopular, but Mr. Abe isn't doing any better.

In a piece of Japan-LatAm news, on July 11, a Chilean judge rejected Peru's bid to extradite former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori. Mr. Fujimori remains under house arrest while the Peruvian government appeals the case to the Chilean Supreme Court (the Chilean Prosecutor's Office supports the Peruvian government), but this could have a major impact on the eventual outcome of the July Upper House election in Japan. Mr. Fujimori is a surprise candidate for the Kokumin Shinto, who, with four Upper House seats (two up for election in July) and powerful LDP roots, looks to be a key player in any post-election maneuverings. If Mr. Fujimori manages to free himself and return to Japan, then this removes a big source of embarrassment for Mr. Abe if he were to entice the Kokumin Shinto into joining the coalition.

Trivia: In another blast from the past, kicking off the campaign for Mr. Fujimori in his absence is… Devi Sukarno, the top Ginza hostess (think, (not-really) geisha in a dress) turned "First" Lady of Indonesia. For those of you unfamiliar with Japanese social history, she is an eclectic mixture of Grace Kelly, Imelda Marcos, Elizabeth Taylor, and Paris Hilton. Without the video.


Garrett said...

I don't think Chris Hogg is on vacation, he just doesn't know what's going on. His pieces for BBC Radio 4 are telling - he apparently hasn't been here long, speaks no Japanese, and didn't spend a whole lot of time studying up before he was sent over. While I generally admire the BBC, I really wonder about their selection process for correspondents. I know they like to shake things up and move people to new places, by I'm not sure why or on what basis they decide who goes where.

If a correspondent isn't conversant in Kinyarwanda, I can understand. Likewise, I could understand someone not having much background on Bhutanese politics. But Japan? Come on.

Jun Okumura said...

Out to lunch then.

Seriously, I remember that in the 1980s, some Japanese newpapers would cover the entire Latin America with a single correspondent. And I remember that at least one of them was based in Rio.

But that was then.