Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan faces plenty of grilling from the opposition camp but his toughest critic might be the one he calls “the opposition party within his own household” – his wife.
“Since I know him very well, I wonder — is it okay that this person is prime minister?” Nobuko Kan, Naoto’s wife of 40 years, writes in her new book titled “What on earth will change in Japan now you are prime minister?”
The 64-year-old Nobuko — who calls herself “Japan’s most nagging voter” — also reveals in the book that her husband is a terrible cook and has given up on studying English, and she pooh-poohs his fashion sense, describing how he once got caught walking around in public with a price tag sticking out of his sleeve.
“I am too scared to read it,” the prime minister, a 63-year-old former grassroots activist, admitted to reporters when asked about his wife’s book about their life together.
Five years ago, Japanese voters seeking change from stale politics and a stagnant economy backed maverick leader Junichiro Koizumi’s calls for reform, handing his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) a huge win in an election for parliament’s powerful lower house.
Two years, several scandals and one incompetent prime minister later, they dealt the same LDP a stinging setback in a 2007 upper house election, creating a “Twisted Parliament” where the upper chamber could stall bills and delay policies.
Candidates on the campaign trail in Japan are sweating through the summer heat but voters have been cool towards this Sunday’s upper house election.
Sure, the government won’t change because the ruling Democratic Party will still control the more powerful lower house.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama at a news conference on April 28, 2010. (REUTERS/Toru Hanai)
It’s not unusual for a politician whose popularity has slumped to want to avoid the media. But for Japan’s premiers it’s not just a question of keeping critical newspaper editorials out of sight.
With voter popularity for Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama sinking to new lows, there was little sympathy even when a lawmaker from his Democratic Party fell flat on her face in parliament last week. Internet chatrooms and blogs have accused Yukiko Miyake of faking her fall, which the Democrats blamed on a shove by a stocky opposition party lawmaker. Footage of the scene in slow motion has flooded YouTube. One comment: “Miyake needs acting lessons”.
Just 9 months ago, the government’s support ratings stood above 70 percent after the Democrats won a landslide election, ending a half-century of nearly non-stop conservative rule. Miyake was one of many first-time lawmakers on whom voters pinned their hopes for change – reviving the economy, cutting wasteful spending and fixing the pensions system. But polls now show the Democrats may struggle to win an election for parliament’s less powerful upper house, expected in July. Failure to win a majority risks policy deadlock at a time when Japan needs the political mandate to push through reforms and cut huge public debt.
If ever proof were needed that personal ties can trump policy in Japanese political alliances , a new party being set up by a band of ageing opposition MPs should do the trick.
Former Finance Minister Kaoru Yosano, 71, favours raising taxes to pay for burgeoning social welfare costs in Japan’s greying society and helped push to privatise Japan’s huge postal system back in 2005.
Japan, breaking with tradition, has started to open up government news conferences to reporters outside the country’s established media. But have they become genuinely “open”?
After six months on the job, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama held his first news conference last month accessible to magazine, freelance and online journalists, drawing a packed crowd at the premier’s Kantei office . Other ministers, including those for foreign affairs, banking and environment, have also started news conferences for journalists excluded from so-called ”press clubs”, which are reserved for a small number of mainstream news agencies, newspapers and broadcasters. The elite press clubs have long enjoyed exclusive access to government news conferences, off-the-record briefings and other events. Opening up the news conferences to non-club members has been a big deal, and only came about after Hatoyama’s Democratic Party took power last year with promises for change and more transparent policies.
“Political deflation” – that’s how one quipster described the woes besetting Japan’s political sphere as support for both the new ruling party and its main conservative rival slips on concerns that neither side is capable of steering an economy plagued by falling prices, decades of lacklustre growth and a fast-ageing, shrinking population.
Six months after the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) swept to power for the first time in a landslide election win that ended more than 50 years of almost unbroken rule by the conservative Liberal Democrats, support for Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s government is only about half the exuberant 70 percent level enjoyed when he took office.
from Raw Japan:
Observers of Japanese politics who have long thought the country was ripe for a real two-party system are watching Sunday's election with a dual sense of incredulity -- surprise that it has taken so long to oust the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and surprise that it finally looks like happening.
Media surveys show the decade-old opposition Democratic Party is set to win the poll for parliament's powerful lower house -- and probably by a landslide, ushering in party leader Yukio Hatoyama at the head of a government pledged to spend more on consumers and workers than the companies that benefited most from LDP policies.