Friday, February 13, 2009

Koizumi Reams Aso

I don’t know what—carelessness? fearlessness? mindlessness?—that was driving Prime Minister Aso when he wandered all over the map expressing his dissatisfaction—assuming there was—over the cornerstone of Junichiro Koizumi’s legacy as Prime Minister, that is, Post Office privatization, only to further diminish himself in the eyes of public opinion. No matter. He roused the lion from his stupor—half-hearted support for “reformist” candidate Yuriko Koike, bequeathal to his nondescript second son and all—who dismissed the hapless Prime Minister on a phone call, then strapped on his guns and unleashed a full-bore attack in a talk to a raggle-taggle, eighteen-member clutch of diehard reformists gathered around Hidenao Nakagawa, his trusty second-in-command during the glory years. The Prime Minister’s chances of leading the LDP into the next Lower House general election have obviously been further diminished. I would also bet against, though I would still bet on the legislative bill authorizing the funding of the 2-trillion-yen handout in the supplementary budget obtaining a Lower House supermajority in a revote*. (The magic number is between 16 and 3247*, depending on the number of defectors and mere abstainers in the voting.) Beyond that, I hesitate to guess what the fallout will be.

The full transcript of Koizumi’s talk is here. As a public service, I offer the following translation of the Yomiuri summary:

With regard to the Prime Minister’s recent statements, it’s as if I am more, like, laughing instead of being angry; I am truly stupefied. A couple of days ago, the Prime Minister “want[ed]to talk”, so I talked to him on the phone, and I told him, “I’ll fax texts from Jiro Ono, Lower House member, and Hironari Seko, Upper House member (criticizing the Prime Minister on their blogs[!]), so please read them carefully.”

When young LDP Diet members express opinions critical of the Prime Minister and party executives, the executives try to suppress them, saying, “No backstabbing”, but isn’t the recent situation such that the Prime Minister is shooting people in the face who are trying to contest [the election]? I told him, “Be careful what you say.”

He seems to be saying about me, “You can’t reason with the guy,” or, “Weirdo, an eccentric,” but I think that I’m a normal person, who has common sense. We have to fight the election by September. We’re all worried what’s going to become of the LDP. I may do some irrational things at times, but it’s necessary to really talk it over in order to come to a rational outcome.

The twisted Diet [LDP-New Komeito has a Lower House (super)majority, but is an Upper House minority] is not a bad thing at all. Currently, the Japanese public is making powerful demands that policy should take priority over politics. If there is a (policy) difference between the two Houses, then it wouldn’t be a bad thing to discuss a plan that the public can be satisfied with, would it?

Regarding the [2-trilllion-yen] handout, the Prime Minister says that it is sordid [for the wealthy] to accept it. He’s been saying a variety of things, such as, “I’m not going to accept it,” and, “No, I didn’t say such a thing.” I don’t think that this legislative bill is one that must be passed if we must resort to the 2/3rds majority (in the Lower House). I don’t want to say later, “I supported it then, but I really hadn’t.” I want them to reach an appropriate conclusion after more consultations with the Upper House.

We must seek the confidence of the public by September. The most important thing in politics is trust. In particular, if the there is no trust in the words of the Prime Minister, we won’t be able to fight the election.

* ADD 14 Feberuary: Bad arithmetic. I always get it wrong unless I do it on paper. I found a way to visualize it, so it won’t happen again. In any case, 47 abstentions? That’s a pretty big number. More importantly, the media have talked to LDP Diet members including first-term Koizumi kids and close associates of Koizumi and are drawing the conclusion that there will be relatively little dissent when the legislative bills come to a Lower-House revote.


Anonymous said...

Are you still convinced that Aso will be around as PM at the end of March?

(I sound like I'm trying to bet you Krispy Kreme doughnuts...)

Jun Okumura said...

Peter: First, Aso wants to go on and nobody is gearing up for a takeover battle. Second, nobody has figured out a way to wiggle out from under the Komeito’s 2 trillion-yen handout. Nothing short of exposing himself in public is going to take him out. At least that’s how I see it.

How about a baker’s dozen?

T. Greer said...

Thanks for the translation. Food for thought to be certain.

Jun Okumura said...

You’re welcome, T. Greer. TV reports show that Koizumi repeated some of the choicest bits for the press.