Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Diet Couple Celebrate Wedding by Joining Habatsu

Tamayo Marukawa (House of Councilors, Tokyo District, ‘07) and Taku Otsuka (House of Representatives, proportional seat, Tokyo Bloc, ‘05) bookended the June 16-20 workweek by marrying on Monday and joining a habastsu on Friday. The Seiwa Seisaku-kenkyukai (better known as Seiwa-kai), the faction of choice, is to the best of my knowledge the only faction that has its own website.

Maybe the Marukawa-Otsuka couple wanted some advice on having a successful “political” marriage, if you’ll pardon the expression. They have become the third Seiwa-kai couple, after Mrs. Kyoko (House of Councilors) and Mr. Nariaki Nakayama (House of Representatives) and Ms. Sakae Takaichi and Mr. Taku Yamamoto (both House of Representatives). You may laugh, but a journalist who has spent more than thirty years observing the Prime Minister’s Office, the LDP, and the rest of the Tokyo political scene told me that factions still have two functions, and one of them is “the exchange of information”, oiled by once-a-week, all-member get-togethers. Tokyo, and the Diet, can be a lonely place—why not seek out people who will understand. There was one other, more famous couple, a non-Seiwa-kai one at that, but the Shisaku favorite Seiko Noda (HR) and Yosuke Tsuruyasu (HC) couple broke up recently.

Alas, the real reason for their choice appears to be less social, more political. Mr. Otsuka was chosen by the Koizumi team for the 2005 election (it must have helped that a scion of the Otsuka pharmaceutical magnate clan would not be having money problems in financing his electoral campaign), while Ms. Maruyama had been heavily recruited by then-Prime Minister Abe for the 2007 HC campaign. These two former Prime Ministers are sandwiched between Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and incumbent Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda; all four hail from the Seiwa-kai.

This is related to the other point that the veteran journalist raised as a key function of the post-modern faction: The habatsu still serves as a support system, especially when election time rolls around. Most important for newbies, it will dispatch its leaders and celebrity faction members to make speeches on your behalf and otherwise make gestures of endorsement. The Seiwa-kai boasts five Prime Ministers still alive and still in the LDP, including—as I already implied—the last four (the other is the venerable octogenarian Yasuhiro Nakasone), appealing to a wide range of ideological preferences and demographics. It is no wonder, then, that the Seiwa-kai is now hands-down the largest faction in the LDP.

If Ms. Marukawa and Mr. Otsuka—likewise Prime Minister aspirant Nobuteru Ishihara*—are any indication, the habatsu is very much alive, if not quite kickin’.

* See footnote ** here.

Seriously, though, isn’t this a rather high incidence of intermarriage between Diet members, especially given the scarcity of female Diet members? Does anything like this happen in your home country?


Janne Morén said...

We had the Finance minister Erik Åsbrink publicly shack up with the School minister Ylva Johansson, both divorcees - she had to leave her position shortly after since it was deemed inappropriate for one minister to have an inside track to the public finances, so to speak. He left the government too, for unrelated reasons.

Anna Lindh, Foreign minister until she was killed by a mentally disturbed person was married to a former "Civil minister" (don't know the English equivalent; minister of the Interior perhaps? They were not in the same government though. A previous minister of Defence is married to a parliament member too. Searching a bit on the net gives me lots of other similar couples.

None of which is strange. Most of use do tend to find our partners at work after all, and especially so in the kind of time-demanding careers where you spend many long hours working together in a high-stress environment.

According to Erik and Ylva above, that was exactly what happened to them, in a practically Harlequine novel-like manner - The ministers sitting hunched together late at night hashing out the education budget. The moon shines through the open window letting in a cool summer night breeze. Eyes meet, hands touch, lips tremble with words better left unsaid, but words that will - that must! - come out; words that change everything. With a gasp they reach for each other, lips hungry to meet...

I'm not exaggerating the newspaper articles by a lot, actually. The couple still show up occasionally in the news - first common child (they have five or something from earlier marriages); the marriage and so on.

Sophie said...

Here in France we have an interesting amount of politicians who are married to journalists. Our foreign minister Kouchner is married to a high profile journalist, Christine Ockrent. Environment minister Borloo is married with another high profile TV journalist, Béatrice Schönberg.
IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn is married to another famous female journalist, Anne Sinclair.
François Baroin, previously minister for overseas territory, divorced from a journalist and is living with another, Marie Drucker.
Sarkozy apparently had a fling with journo Laurence Ferrari before wedding Carla Bruni, and miss Ferrari will be the new anchor of the TF1 evening news in August.

Last year, on the night of the election, Sarkozy celebrated his victory with friends. Among themselves, these friends own 85% of the French daily press. So of course this gives opportunity for encounters (romantic or not).

MTC said...

Here we had "love on the steps" during the sit-down blockade of Diet chambers -- with the very much married Funada Hajime falling for former TV announcer Hata Kei - to the utter horror of his supporters.

Funada, a young third generation Diet member, was on the fast track for Prime Minister until his divorce and subsequent remarriage to Hata.

Jun Okumura said...

Janne: What is it with these amorous finance ministers?

Sophia: So that’s why the French media have been giving their political leaders a pass; they’re covering their own asses—or, in the immortal words of Babel Fish, leurs ânes. And Larry Ferrari? Do I know a guy by that name, NTTAWWT?

MTC: …which reminds me of the Sonodas, Tenkoko and Sunao, the original Seikai Shitsurakuen, when Japanese democracy was young and Ozaki Gakudo walked among us… I mean, our parents.

Seriously, this says it all:

None of which is strange. Most of use do tend to find our partners at work after all, and especially so in the kind of time-demanding careers where you spend many long hours working together in a high-stress environment.

Sooooo, speaking from experience, are you, Janne?

Janne Morén said...

What is it with these amorous finance ministers?

Money and power? They have more than just about anybody, even if it is on limited time loan.

Sophia: not too many politics-media hookups in Sweden as far as I know, but our previous State Secretary Ulrica Schenström was caught by a tabloid last year at a club in Stockholm, partying with the political reporter for channel 4, rather drunk and kissing each other. Which would be fine of course, except that she was supposed to be on disaster response watch for the government at the time.

Sooooo, speaking from experience, are you, Janne?

^_^ No, not from direct, personal experience. But yes, it's really common in academia as well of course. Half the research people I know met their partner at work, giving rise to the all too common "two body problem". At least I had the good sense to go one step removed - my wife was a good friend of a colleague who introduced us.

Jun Okumura said...

Whatever works, Janne.

MTC said...

On the more recent press-politics canoodling front, how can we forget TBS eye candy and scandal magazine favorite Yamamoto Mona's lip-locking escapade with the DPJ's very much married Hosona Koji, for which he had to resign his position and she had to do time promoting horse racing?

Jun Okumura said...

And how can we overlook the scandal sheet rumors of nubile reporters sleeping over at the governor’s residence in Miyazaki Prefecture? In fact, if you read the Manyoshu, The Tales of Genji and what have you from the Golden Ages of Japanese literature, you will know that we've always expected our leaders to fool around. That's entertainment.

Seriously, these scandals are more harmful for the woman, isn’t it? Mona Yamamoto lost her newscaster gig; Kei Hata left politics.