Regime change in Japan (政権交代)

The weather reports are following the typhoon off the coast of Honshu this afternoon, but the electoral typhoon already blew through yesterday afternoon.

I followed the reporting on Nippon Television’s “News Zero” (the one that goes ZEEEEE-roooohh). The other stations seemed to be a little more sedate.

I think Nippon (“Nittele”) has the wildest graphics, especially the overhead bar graph and the cartoon representations of Aso and Hatoyama. It would be nice to see someone throw those up on You Tube.

Here’s the opening. See?– It’s news, it’s a video game!


Turnout was something near 7 out of 10 eligible voters. I saw a news item that they accidentally let an 11-year-old
vote somewhere. (Something like that in America would cause the Republicans to try and deligitimize the entire result, eh?)

The turnout was high because so many people are disgusted with the political situation. That’s old news.

Today there starts appearing the “inside baseball” stories. A few articles out there are focusing on Ichiro Ozawa as a sort of behind-the-scenes wizard of Japanese politics (or schemer depending on one’s political bent.)

Mariko Yasumoto in the Japan Times suggests that Ozawa’s clout is going to grow. Particularly, if he is selected, as word has it, to head up the DPJ’s 2010 Upper House efforts.

To me, it really isn’t clear though that Ozawa would involve himself in any more party splits! I think that might be a bit of anti-Ozawaism slipping in to the forecasters’ pool.

For those who don’t know, Ozawa was a force 16 years ago in temprorarily bringing down the LDP establishment. For 11 months, Japan was ruled by an ineffective coalition government. In that time, the district-and-at-large voting system was put into place, and the seeds were also sewn for the collapse of the Japan Socialists. Ozawa had a role in these.

By 1995, the LDP was restored to power. The left-leaning and otherwise out-of-favor politicians coalesced into the DPJ in 1998. I think Ozawa came on board there sometime earlier this decade.

In a way, a lot of the battles that have gone on in Japanese politics over the last 20 years have pivoted around whatever Ozawa and his close group were doing.

I think the United States was always suspicious of those goings-on because of Ozawa’s earlier connection to Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, the one brought down in the Lockheed Scandal. There are two schools out about Tanaka. One is that he was the center of money corruption in Japan. The other is that he started making nice with China in 1974 and that got the U.S. defense establishment nervous, so they set him up. The latter sounds like left-wing fiction to me . . .

A final bit of neat news out there is about the Social Democratic Party and the People’s New Party, which were the designated coalition partners in this election. These minor groups are signaling that they have to get themselves together before they formalize their relationship with the victorious DPJ.

But the real news is that there is probably going to be a lot of deal-cutting to get the smaller parties firmly on board. Mizuho Fukushima, the head of the Social Democrats, said as much back in July.

For the DPJ to pass laws, they must rely on the smaller parties, or the Communists, or the still-sore LDP, to get the bill through the Upper House—where the DPJ does not have a majority. As a result, they are probably going to have to give groups like Fukushima’s Social Democrats something.

I think a lot of the attention is rightly on the Lower House right now. But the action is going to take place in the Upper House in the next few months.

3 thoughts on “Regime change in Japan (政権交代)

  1. I have also been thinking about how much faction politics within one party is the same as one-party rule for 55 years.

    In some ways, this historic shakeup has happened a couple of other times in recent Japanese electoral history besides 1993.

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