Maehara resignation another sign Japanese politics is badly broken

(Mainichi Japan) March 7, 2011
Maehara resignation another sign Japanese politics is badly broken

The public's lingering ambivalence regarding Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara's resignation can be attributed to the utter improbability of the brouhaha making any contributions toward straightening out the tangled mess that Japanese politics has become.

The scandal erupted when it emerged that Maehara had been receiving 50,000 yen annually from a 72-year-old South Korean resident of Kyoto in violation of the Political Funds Control Law. The benefactor runs a small barbecue restaurant, and has known Maehara since he was in his second year of junior high school.

What are we to make of the gap in significance between the facts surrounding the donations and the foreign minister's resignation because of them?

One former prime minister and a member of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) said that it was the fact that the political funds law had not been honored -- and not the specific circumstances of the donations -- that was the problem.
"The donation amount is not the issue here," he said. "That a figure such as the foreign minister had not taken a law banning politicians from accepting donations from foreign nationals seriously is the issue."

There is no question that Maehara's blunder must be criticized. Small donations can amount to a lot if collected from large numbers of people. Considering that the Political Funds Control Law was laid down in the spirit of preventing the will of specific foreign countries from influencing domestic politics, foreign ministers must be careful -- perhaps even more than other politicians -- to abide by such rules.

What should not be overlooked, however, is that Maehara's donation scandal suddenly surfaced at a time of political gridlock, in which forcing a choice between resignation and keeping one's post seems to be the ultimate mission of the Japanese political world.

It is obvious that the LDP, which unearthed the latest scandal, has an ulterior motive: to crush Maehara, rumored to be a prospective successor to Kan, before he gains momentum, and to push Prime Minister Kan to dissolve the lower house. Kan will find himself cornered, no matter how determined he may presently be to stay on task, if Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Ritsuo Hosokawa -- who recently bumbled over a ministry directive regarding social security -- is also driven to resignation, setting off a resignation "domino effect."

Meanwhile, it appears that one reason Maehara resigned relatively soon after his violation of the political funds law became public was his judgment that doing so would help him maintain his chances of becoming prime minister more so than would waiting until the drama had played out over an extended period of time. He left much business unfinished, including the upcoming G8 meeting of foreign ministers that is set to begin on March 14, and a meeting of Japanese, Chinese and South Korean foreign ministers scheduled for March 19. Kan lacked any zeal to fight to keep Maehara at his post, betraying a general sense of incompetence within the Kan administration.

While the ruling and opposition parties carry out their domestic political rivalry, politics continues to lose its original function -- namely to govern Japan and serve its people -- leaving Japan behind the rest of the globalized world. Prolonged political paralysis only serves to hurt Japan's national interests and the interests of the Japanese people. (By Ko Koga, Senior Writer, Political News Department)

毎日新聞 2011年3月7日 東京朝刊

by kiyoshimat | 2011-03-08 06:23 | 英字新聞

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