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Letters from Tokyo
PM Fukuda of Japan Resigns and This Nation Is in Confusion Once More
By Lee Jay Walker
Tokyo Correspondent
Yasuo Fukuda

The nation of Japan continues to defeat itself and the vibrant years of high economic growth and having a purpose have all but vanished. Therefore, two leaders have resigned in the space of less than one year and neither leader left any impact on society which was positive. So why does the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) continue to behave in such an outlandish and callow way? Also, why did Yasuo Fukuda resign without very little prior notice?

Sadly, democracy in Japan is not so important because the same party continues to govern and rule Japan. This fiasco applies to more than 50 years, apart from a very brief spell when they lost power in 1993. To make matters worse, the main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), is also a bit of a fraud because the current leader was once a bigwig within the LDP. Therefore, the leader of the DPJ, Ichiro Ozawa, and others like him, are transforming the DPJ into a similar proto-type party and it is often difficult to know what divides both political parties because both parties are blighted by factionalism.

Given the role of factionalism within Japanese politics it becomes apparent that both main political parties are divided and this is the problem, for neither party appears to have a unified goal. Within the DPJ you have the isshin-kai, Hatoyama group, Kan group, and others; while in the LDP you also have many factions and clearly these factions are often above the party itself. Therefore, for Fukuda, he was not only blighted by being challenged by the opposition party but he also had to maintain order within the LDP. Yet Fukuda could not cope with being challenged so much because he supported the theory of consensus and it is hard to see how a leader like this could have taken power in a more robust and democratic nation.

Therefore, if we look at the last three leaders of the LDP it is hard to believe that Koizumi, Abe, and Fukuda, belonged to the same political party. After all, you had the staunch nationalist in Koizumi and of course this leader "talked a good talk" but did little, apart from isolating Japan within Northeast Asia because of his visits to Yasukuni Shrine, where he prayed for war criminals and ordinary soldiers alike. He was followed by Abe who also liked to visit Yasukuni prior to taking power but who refused to go during his brief leadership. However, Abe was blighted by scandal after scandal within the ruling LDP. More worrying, Abe also wanted to re-write history via the tragic events in Okinawa and he rejected the fact that Japanese soldiers forced Korean women, Chinese women, and others, into sexual slavery. Then these two leaders were followed by a more gentler and caring Fukuda and this is the problem, just what does politics mean within the political system in Japan?

Yet since 1990 you have had a major downturn in Japan because the stock market, the Nikkei, was once valued at over 39,000 but 18 years later and it is approximately 66% below this figure. Also, Japan`s ranking with regards to GDP continues to plummet because Japan was once ranked number two in the world. However, by 2007 the IMF ranked Japan to be 22nd and clearly something is going wrong within this nation. Despite this political leaders are often focused on maintaining strong ties with America and other issues which are not so important to the majority of Japanese people.

Therefore, the tax system is in crisis and the pension fiasco continues to rumble on. At the same time you have a demographic time-bomb which keeps on ticking and many neglected areas are getting poorer. The health care system is also under tremendous strain because you do not have enough doctors and nurses. This especially applies to the countryside, however, many Japanese people have died because they have been refused medical treatment until it is too late. Also, social inequality is growing and you have mental strains within society which is related to major health issues. Yet real "bread and butter" causes have largely been neglected in recent times and even Fukuda introduced a controversial health care scheme which made the poor even poorer.

So the current resignation by the leader of Japan is part and parcel of the continuing stagnation of this nation. After all, Fukuda stated "Today, I have decided to resign. We need a new line-up to cope with a new session of parliament. My decision is based on what I thought the future political situation ought to be. The Democratic Party has tried to stall every bill so it has taken a long time to implement any policies. For the sake of the Japanese people, this should not be repeated. If we are to prioritize the people's livelihoods, there cannot be a political vacuum from political bargaining, or a lapse in policies. We need a new team to carry out policies." Therefore, this implies that he was not the right person in the first place because surely the opposition is bound to question the ruling party. Or did Fukuda want "a rubber stamp?"

Overall, you could argue that the Japanese political system is neither fully democratic or based solely on party politics. This applies to the virtual monopoly of power by the ruling LDP and even when the LDP is challenged, it is being challenged by a former bigwig who once belonged to the same party but who now happens to lead the DPJ. Also, factionalism within both parties means that little can be done and Japan just goes from one crisis to another without anything really being done, apart from abusing tax-payers money. However, one can not have sympathy for the voters of Japan because the majority either do not care or they have given up the ghost because of the past . Therefore, will the next leader of Japan be any different or will the same pattern emerge again because of the weakness of the Japanese political system?

Lee Jay Walker Dip BA MA
http://journals.aol.com/leejaywalker/uk/



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Lee Jay Walker serves as Tokyo Correspondent of The Seoul Times. He specializes in int'l relations and geopolitics. He is also involved in analyst work and research on business. After finishing BA degree in East European Studies at the University of London, He earned MA degree in Asia Pacific Studies in Nottingham Trent University. He also studied business at London Institute.

 

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