Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
Comedian for Japan PM?
It may seem like a bad joke, but some say Japan’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party just might be desperate enough to take up an offer from a ex-comedian to take over as leader.
Unpopular Prime Minister Taro Aso’s LDP party is sagging in the polls with an election just months away. The party’s fear of defeat after more than half a century of almost unbroken rule is prompting lawmakers to plot miraculous rescue scenarios, many beginning with dumping the PM.
The ex-comedian, now the governor of rural Miyazaki in southern Japan, has dominated media airwaves ever since the LDP’s top campaign strategist trekked to his office and offered him a spot on the party’s ticket. Governor Hideo Higashikokubaru replied with a counter-offer – let me run for party leader and I’ll sign on.
“What I’m saying is that I will change the LDP,” the 51-year-old conservative governor said on TV as pundits tried to tell if he was joking or serious. Some speculate his real goal is to abandon the slow life in Miyazaki for Tokyo’s bright lights, and might settle for a mere cabinet post.
Higashikokubaru, elected as an independent two years ago and known for plastering his face on mangoes, grilled chicken and other Miyazaki delicacies to promote them, prompted outrage from party stalwarts but the party has yet to reject the idea.
The wooing of Higashikokubaru underscores the LDP’s paucity of talent and flagging fortunes, some say, but the party has a history of surprising moves, such as tapping media-savvy maverick Junichiro Koizumi for its leader in 2001. Koizumi then became Japan’s most popular prime minister in years.
Higashikokubaru’s offer seems unlikely to be accepted, but stranger things have happened. In 1994 the LDP backed a Socialist as PM, joining an odd-couple coalition to return from a brief stint in the opposition.
“Everyone is predicting that they are going to get pasted at the polls, so the LDP may be in a high-risk mode,” said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Temple University’s Tokyo campus. “What do they have to lose?”
Photo credit: REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao