Sunday, March 16, 2008

Yukio Hatoyama Gives Okay to Haruhiko Kuroda and Hiroshi Watanabe

Yukio Hatoyama appeared on Sōichirō Tawara’s Sunday Project and defended the DPJ against the accusation that it was playing politics with the replacement for the current BOJ Governor, Toshirō Mutō, whose term expires on 19 March. Never mind, though; he endorsed Haruhiko Kuroda and Hiroshi Watanabe, two former MOF Vice Ministers for International Affairs, as the next BOJ Governor. He did not come out and say it outright - it’s not his decision to make - but he responded to Mr. Tawara’s questioning and stated that it was his understanding that the two men were highly regarded, superior to Mr. Mutō in their international backgrounds, and did not come with the kind of MOF baggage that comes with a former Administrative Vice Minister like Mr. Mutō. In fact, the two men were so carried away by the prospects for a compromise that they forgot about Yutaka Yamaguchi, a third possible candidate whose image was prominently displayed in the background together with Mr. Kuroda and Mr. Watanabe’s. One of the regular panelists, an Asahi editorial writer*, pointed that out, but Mr. Hatoyama didn’t bother responding. Go figure.

I still think that it’s going to be Mr. Kuroda. Mr. Watanabe is easier to move, but he lacks seniority. I believe that the foreign press will give either one (or Mr. Yamaguchi, for that matter) a warm welcome, and the domestic press will also show their immediate relief over the resolution of the impasse. The problem with these men, though, is that they lack experience in fiscal policy and more broadly in economic management. Also, their domestic networks are bound to be very different from people from the MOF mainstream. So Mr. Kuroda (or Mr. Watanabe) must give the media a good honeymoon, or they will quickly show their disrespect.

The gasoline taxes took up a lot of Sunday Project time too, but I didn’t hear anything new from Mr. Hatoyama.

Former Mie Governor Masayasu Kitagawa and Kanagawa Governor Shigefumi Matsuzawa, founding figures of Sentaku as well as the Yamazaki faction transplant Nobuteru Ishihara and DPJ Ozawa-hater Yukio Edano, two key members from its political win, appeared on the show to discuss their objectives. They denied that the Sentaku was aimed at seikai saihen, or reorganization of the political parties, but it was clear that Governor Matsuzawa, for one, would love to see that happen. I’ve been working on an argument that something different is likely to happen and the reasons for that (I briefly touched on the subject here, at the end, and in the first footnote here), but I think that it’s going to be too long for a post. If you can help me get it into print, you will receive my undying gratitude.

* Incidentally, it’s my impression that Asahi editorial writers usually come across individually as more moderate than the editorials that they actually write. I assume that it’s the same thing with Yomiuri editorial writers, only in the opposite direction ideology-wise. What do you think?

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