Monday, September 03, 2007

The Revolving Door at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

MAFF Ministertenuretime served
Toshikatsu Matsuoka06.09.26-07.05.28245 days
Norihiko Akagi07.06.01-08.0162 days
Masatoshi Wakabayashi07.08.01-07.08.2727 days
Takehiko Endo07.08.27-07.09.038 days
Masatoshi Wakabayashi07.09.03-??

Note that the tenure is getting shorter and shorter. This trend should stop, barring extraordinary revelations, as Mr. Wakabayashi, the ex-Environment Minister, has been called back as MAFF Minister, this time "permanently".

Mr. Wabayashi also executed the MAFF minister's duties in the brief interregnum between Mr. Matsuoka and Mr. Akagi, but that routinely happens when ministers travel overseas and is not an appointment.

Also jettisoned was first-term Yukiko Sakamoto as the Upper House Vice Minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The local LDP branch, which she chairs, and her own support association had been using multiple copies of single receipts as evidence for cost related to "meetings". As for the others with "politics and money" issues, Fukushiro Nukaga (Minister of Finance), Mitsuhide Iwaki (Chief Cabinet Secretary; Upper House), and Kanji Hagiwara (Vice Minister; Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry; Upper House) have been spared the sword; likewise on the LDP party side Toshihiro Nikai (Chairman, General Council) and Nobuteru Ishihara (Chairman, Policy Research Council). Two points:

1) You are responsible for the actions of your subordinates.
2) Mistakes are forgiven but falsehoods are not.

The Secretary-General, the Chairman of the General Council, and the Chairman of the Policy Research Council are the Big Three of the LDP. Since the President of the LDP usually serves as Prime Minister (Yohei Kono is the only LDP President who failed to do so; he had to settle for Speaker of the Lower House), the Big Three are in charge of the day-to-day activities. The Secretary-General oversees the political machine and is the most powerful. The General Committee Chairman nominally outranks his counterpart at the Policy Research Council, but is usually seen as a less powerful figure. Thus, the position has often served as a political reward to long-serving and affable - if not quite top-shelf talent – party stalwarts. (PRC policy decisions must receive GC approval before it becomes official party policy but the GC almost unfailingly rubberstamps the PRC decision.

Seriously, there is a sliver lining for the LDP to this mess. Cabinet appointments and the length of such tenures are highly valued in determining who gets what in the twice-yearly Imperial Honors. If things have not changed since I was involved in the peripheries, tenure is tallied by the year regardless of the actual number of days served. In other words, one day as Cabinet Minister is just as valuable as the entire calendar year in determining your service to the nation. Thus, Mr. Akagi and Mr. Endo have already earned a year as Cabinet Minister towards whatever award that awaits them when they pass the age of 70. (Gaijins can and do receive them earlier.) Mr. Matsuoka should have no use for those two years regardless of where he is now. Still, together with the permanent replacement for MAFF Minister, the Abe administration will have used the one calendar year to help bestow Imperial favor on three – likely four, since Mr. Wakabayashi should be allowed to count his non-overlapping tenures at MOE and MAFF as one year each - worthies among the party faithful.

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