JIN-492 -- Two months down... time for a new PM?

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J@pan Inc Newsletter
The 'JIN' J@pan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends
in Japan.
Issue No. 492 Wednesday November 26, 2008, Tokyo

It is quite a feat that despite the firestorm in the global markets,
Taro Aso has managed to again turn the Japanese media to the
inadequacies of yet another prime minister. It has been building for a
while, but this week has seen a burst of negative stories in the press
basically giving a summary of all the dumb things the PM has managed
to do over the last few weeks.

Aso has managed to fall out of favor with a wide variety of people
ranging from doctors to a cross-section of his own party through a
range of actions ranging from considered maneuvers to offensive
gaffes. Also, Aso's much-hailed love of manga has been turned around by
opponents to further cement the PM's image as an unfit statesman – his
inability to read relatively straightforward kanji correctly is apparently tied
to his otaku ways.

He has made repeated mistakes in speeches such as calling 1929 "Black
Monday" instead of "The Great Depression" and has lost his temper at
press conferences when quizzed on his actions. Also his calls to
freeze the privatization of the post office, one of former Prime
Minister Koizumi's most hard-fought reforms, has riled many within the
LDP.

Also the PM's move to spend about 2 trillion yen for cash benefits to
citizens has largely been seen as a bribe to keep the public happy,
rather than any kind of real answer to the problems facing the economy.
The LDP is famous for its pork-barrel politics and people just generally
take the money and get on with their lives rather than turning around,
proclaiming the latest PM as some kind of savior.

Also a lack of support from the LDP, caused by what was largely seen
simply as a lack of communication, has not helped the situation. On
October 30, Aso announced at a press conference that he would
distribute 1 trillion yen to local governments. The money is to be
distributed via additional tax revenue allocations following the
integration of road-related tax revenue from the central government.
Many within the LDP didn't understand this, causing a backlash from
some party members with vested interests in road-related public works.

In the Yomiuri Shimbun an aide was quoted as saying: "As we were busy
dealing with various matters, we weren't able to convey the message to
senior party officials in advance."

Some within his party have already started talking about the post-Aso era.

"I would say that up to 70 percent of my colleagues have reached the
conclusion that we will not be able to win the coming election with Mr
Aso in charge and that already his power to lead has gone," LDP
politician Ichita Yamamoto told The Daily Telegraph on Monday.

So what would be worse for the economy – tossing out another PM, or
sticking with the current one? Aso won the leadership ballot by a
landslide but most people generally considered the whole thing just a
show for the press and the public. Now, many of those paraded around
for the public (always to left and right of Aso who was always at the
center for photo ops, remember?) are now being touted as contenders
for the PM position.

Nobuteru Ishihara, son of Tokyo mayor Shintaro Ishihara, Yuriko Koike,
who, if elected, would be Japan's first female PM and Yoshimi Watanabe,
the former minister of financial services, have been mentioned as
possible replacements for Aso.

But if people weren't fed up with the LDP before, they surely will be now.
It's lucky that the country runs itself, but with all the economic
turmoil facing
the country, you know, it would be nice to have some real leadership
for a change…

Michael Condon
Editor-in-chief

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