Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
Opposition sees “Hitler Youth” in ruling party
When Japan’s new opposition leader compared ruling party lawmakers cheering the prime minister’s policy speech to “Hitler Youth”, the comment grabbed headlines, though it was perhaps just a sign of the depth of opposition frustration.
“I got the impression that the atmosphere in parliament was similar to the Hitler Youth agreeing to Hitler’s speech,” Liberal Democratic Party leader Sadakazu Tanigaki told reporters after Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s first policy speech since his Democratic Party ousted the LDP in a historic August election.
Hatoyama’s Democrats trounced the LDP in the lower house election, taking 308 seats in the 480-member chamber, while the conservative party that had ruled Japan for most of the past half-century lost its grip on power after its presence was slashed to a mere 119.
The LDP defeat was particularly stunning given that in the previous general election in 2005, popular LDP leader Junichiro Koizumi had led his party to a massive victory with talk of bold reforms, only to see the tables turned four years later.
Despite some rough patches in his first month in office, Hatoyama is riding high in opinion polls, which also show Tanigaki has failed to excite voter enthusiasm.
Hatoyama, the wealthy grandson of a prime minister, promoted his core philopsophy of “yuai”, a fuzzy concept of “fraternity”, in his speech and pledged to protect the weak from harsh economic competition while reallocating spending to improve individuals’ lives.
“It is obvious that leaving everything to the market and pursuing market efficiency to the point where you sacrifice people’s livelihoods and only the strong survive will not work,” Hatoyama said, although he also gave a nod to the benefits of market economics.
It was not the first time an LDP executive had compared support for the Democrats to the trend that brought the Nazis to power. Former Prime Minister Taro Aso, who led his party to defeat in August, made a similar analogy last year when he was LDP No.2 and was told by a Democratic Party lawmaker that voters were deserting the LDP.
“If you look at history, you will see that as a result of the people moving away from the party of government, regimes like the Nazis came into power,” Aso was quoted by Japanese media as replying.
Hatoyama’s younger brother Kunio, an outspoken LDP lawmaker often critical of Yukio’s policies, had an entirely different take on his sibling’s 52-minute speech, which some Japanese media criticised as long on rhetoric but short on policy details.
“It was full of talk that seemed like scenes from a ‘manga’ comic for young girls,” the Sankei newspaper quoted Kunio as saying.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Kim Kyung Hoon