Sunday, January 12, 2014

Will Ex-PM Koizumi Support Ex-PM Hosokawa’s Tokyo Governor Bid and More

Morihiro Hosokawa, the 75 year-old former prime minister, is reportedly looking to run for Tokyo governor to oppose nuclear power and will meet another former prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, tomorrow to seek his endorsement. Hosokawa needs Koizumi’s endorsement because he lost most of his political credibility when he resigned as prime minister after only nine months in office rather than face questions about 100 million yen that he secretly received from a corporation in a heavily regulated industry as he was launching his political career. Koizumi by contrast resigned at the peak of his popularity after five years, a stark contrast to most of the other post-WW II prime ministers, particularly the one-year-and-out sextet that followed him. Hosokawa hopes that Koizumi will support him because they both oppose nuclear power. My call is that Hosokawa will not have to run without Koizumi’s formal endorsement. In fact, if there were a way to place bets on tomorrow’s outcome, I would put some of my money on Hosokawa declining to run after all, since I seem to be the only one that is considering that possibility and could get unbelievably long odds on that outcome. Here’s why.

They both got their start in the LDP but enjoyed reputations as iconoclasts. However, Hosokawa really did try to put an end to LDP rule and briefly did, while Koizumi came to power claiming that he would bust up the LDP but wound up entrenching it in power. Moreover, Hosokawa entered and exited politics all alone, opposed in his choice of career by his ex-noble father and none of his own children following in his footsteps while Koizumi, a third-generation Diet member bequeathed his seat to his son, who has easily lapped his political-generational cohorts in the chase for the LDP’s future leadership. Hosokawa was for better or worse the ultimate amateur; Koizumi was the consummate pro. And that LDP will be supporting a different candidate. Why would Koizumi put the interests of the LDP at stake by campaigning for Hosokawa?

Note also that Hosokawa opposes nuclear power while Koizumi’s main complaint is that he sees no prospects of finding a site for the final disposition of the nuclear waste. Hosokawa makes an environmental argument, whereas Koizumi remains the consummate political animal. It is hard to imagine tomorrow’s meeting producing a true meeting of minds.

The media is going easy on Hosokawa at least in part because they want to encourage him to run. The media wants a race and with Hosokawa, they will have a race, between two high-profile candidates at that. But what will happen once Hosokawa officially declares? It will be open season on his public record, that’s what. Hosokawa bungled the rollout of the public debate on a consumption tax hike, seriously depleting his political capital; he suffered a fatal blow when he failed to account for the 100 million yen cash transfer and resigned instead. The analogy with now ex-governor Inose’s 50 million yen “loan” from yet another donor in a heavily regulated industry will be too delicious for the media to pass up. Moreover, the disgraced Inose is likely to remain in the spotlight throughout the gubernatorial campaign as the suspect in a political financing irregularity probe (at best) and a bribery case (at worst).

Finally, Hosokawa is trying to turn the gubernatorial race into a referendum on nuclear power. Will a plurality of Tokyo voters take a flier on a 75 year-old carpetbagger just to express their displeasure about nuclear power? Stranger things have happened, but still.

I just don’t see the stars lining up for a Koizumi endorsement. Nor victory for Hosokawa.

Add (20140113): Woke up this morning, decided I wouldn’t put money on Hosokawa not running after all, even with the great odds that I could get.

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