Sunday, May 17, 2009

Japan Politics 101

Recently Ichiro Ozawa, leader of the opposition DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan), was forced to step down in the wake of a funding scandal. Yesterday his successor was selected - not by ordinary party members (which would in fact be democratic) but by its diet members who number a little over 200. The contenders were Yukio Hatoyama (right hand man of the ousted Ozawa) and Katsuya Okada (popular and said to have a "clean image"). In an article in Friday's Japan Times, a day before the election, the following was written:

"While Okada is favored in national opinion polls and is gaining support from the anti-Ozawa faction, Hatoyama reportedly has the backing of Ozawa and his followers, placing Okada at a likely disadvantage."

In other words, what the people want is less important than what the party bigwigs - even disgraced ones - want. Not only did this tell us how the voting would go, it revealed much about the way of politics in this country. The governing party, the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party, which is in fact neither) has been in power by itself or in coalitions almost continuously for more than fifty years. The DPJ styles itself as the party of "change".

Hatoyama, by the way, is the grandson of a former prime minister.

Oh, the photo of passing cars was taken in the Nagatacho - Akasaka area, near the diet building and Prime Minister's residence. The water changes but the river stays the same, year after year.


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