Categories
Government Culture

Japan: Apologetic (Political) Culture

Taro Aso apologizes to party fellows, 21 July 2009

Today, I, Taro Aso, decided to dissolve the House of Representatives and seek a popular mandate.  [I]mprovident statements I have made caused mistrust among the public and damaged its confidence in politics. […]

This is also with regard to the disunity within the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). My shortcomings have created mistrust among the public, and as the President of the party, I should like to extend my most sincere apologies.

Thus were the words amplified by apologetic bows the Japanese prime minister uttered at a press conference 21 July. In my ears they sounded like the admission of failure and I expected Aso to announce his resignation the next minute.

He did not. After a coup withing his own party failed, Aso is staying firm and is propping up the party for the upcoming general elections.

Japanese politics of recent years can be read as a history of apologies.

Categories
Government Elections

Japan: Same Predictions of Change

Building of the National Diet, the Japanese parliament/ Photo: erinsikorskystewart/flickr
Blinded by the prospect of change? The National Diet, Japan's parliament/ Photo: erinsikorskystewart/flickr

For The Economist, as for most other commentators, the dice have been cast. Four years after it won a landslide victory under the reformist banner held by Koizumi Jun’ichiro, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is expected to lose the lower house elections set for 30 August. The predicted winner will be the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) (don’t be misled by the party names, they don’t mean much).

However, government change has been predicted before, or as The Economist writes: “The 54-year-old LDP’s obituary has been written many times, and the corpse has always revived.” Among those obituarists is also The Economist, who like me, have been wrong in the past. But this time, the evidence seems defeating. Recent opinion polls suggest that 46 percent of the respondents would vote for the DPJ compared to 19 percent for the LDP. A week ago, the DPJ won the elections to the Tokyo metropolitan assembly and pushed aside the LDP, which had been the biggest party there for 40 years.

Nevertheless, I remain skeptical about the prospect of government change. Let me give you four reasons for this.