Saturday, August 25, 2007

Oops, Defense Minister Koike Is on the Outs (and Another Minister Has Political Financing Worries)

Yuriko Koike, the Defense Minister, whom I had tagged as the one minister who would keep her job in Abe Cabinet 2.0 (replacing ver.14), won't do so after all. In a press briefing she gave on the 24th at the New Delhi hotel where she was staying, she stated, "Nobody has taken responsibility within the Defense Ministry for the Aegis destroyer information system leak. I wish to take the responsibility. I want to change totally the people and their mindset, and have the new minister take charge…… I have said that I will 'resign' [on the occasion of the Cabinet reshuffle]." She added later to reporters at the New Delhi Airport, "I communicated to the prime minister my intent [not to stay on]. I did not get a direct answer", and "This does not mean that I am taking responsibility for the [confusion over] the personnel decision on the vice minister post."

I took these quotes from the Yomiuri hard-copy front page version (which may have had something to do with the editorial decision to carry Prime Minister Abe's summit with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah in a much smaller space on page 2).

On her return to Japan at Narita Airport next morning, she seemed to dampen any speculation that she would remain in the Cabinet in another capacity, stating, "I've communicated to the prime minister that 'I want to work hard to support Prime Minister Abe as one foot soldier of the party from now on'". However, she did not completely rule out possibility of serving if asked. This, the latest from the online Mainichi

All this is forcing reporters to chase MOD and LDP sources for comments. They are uniformly critical of her decision, although the reasons seem to vary, whether it be taking it on herself to resign after creating a mess just before, giving a somewhat unconvincing reason for the decision, running away from a confrontation with Ichiro Ozawa, or jumping ship before being pushed out anyway by Mr. Abe.

If her departure takes one awkward problem out of Mr. Abe's hands, he can't be pleased that Ms. Koike took the matter and its announcement into her own hands. This reinforces an image of a passive prime minister that does not take charge of the situation and instead allows the situation to dictate to him. In this respect, it does not help him that the two core personnel decisions he has made so far, creating a dual power structure of Cabinet ministers on one hand and the White House-style sub-Cabinet prime minister's team on the other, and engineering the return of the Post Office privatization rebels, both backfired spectacularly. Another silver lining, of course, is that he will be able to replace her with a more conciliatory figure in dealing with counter-terrorism act whose extension will be the biggest and most urgent issue of the upcoming Diet session.

Ms. Koike is not the only Cabinet minister to run into trouble these days. There is Shiozaki Yasuhisa, inflicted twice-fold by the political financing scandal (imagine the misfortune of having one of your accountants embezzle money from you and your losing your job because of it; well, not quite, but close enough to the truth to feel some sympathy for Mr. Shiozaki) and his latest run-in with Ms. Koike. Then, there's Yoshihide Suga, Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, and close . Scandal- and foot-in-mouth-disease-free---all things being relative in politics--Mr. Suga had been one of the brighter lights in the Abe Administration, and MIAC had been rewarded with an oversight role in rehabilitating the public pension system, bringing some functions of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare under its jurisdiction, albeit indirectly. However, if he had harbored any thoughts of staying on, he surely gave them up, as suspiciously large overhead costs have shown up on his books.

Seriously, politicians who want to keep their jobs should start slipping me fat envelopes filled with unmarked 10,000 Yen bills just so I won't write favorably about their prospects. You already owe me one, Mr. Suga.


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Jun Okumura said...

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