Asashoryu: A fan of ”政権交代”?

Asashoryu may have delivered a huge gift to the DPJ. While an Ozawa indictment would have sealed the deal, as expected by MTC, only Okubo, Ikeda and Ishikawa will be indicted. A quick unscientific spot check of the Japanese online coverage this morning (NZ time – news cycle has had 12 hours to run) reveals that with the exception of the Sankei, the others have the Asashoryu story top billing. Sankei has an Ozawa related story, but this is no surprise.

As Ozawa is not being indicted it would be up to the LDP and the media to make hay while the sun shines on this story. It will no longer be as easy to extend this one out past its natural life.  Asashoryu whatever one thinks of him is a true icon and such a downfall is the sort of thing the media in Japan craves, as we saw in the ridiculously overexposed Noripi coverage last year. It will be interesting to look back in a year’s time, and depending on the conditions and intriguing developments to come in Japanese politics, to speculate over the impact the Asashoryu story had on the DPJ’s ability to release itself from the historical legacy (assuming there is not more dirt to be uncovered!) and actually get on to some serious policy change/reform. Maybe none.

Freedom Achieved

I have now settled down in my ivory tower (odd slanty wooden building) to commence research. I no longer have to indulge my politics fetish covertly from within the confines of the governmental institution and I have to say, I do like it!

I must say however, International Relations has changed a lot since 2004 when I finished my MA. Between Google going to battle with China, and France, Germany and Australia taking a rather public piss all over IE and Microsoft, things certainly do seem to have changed!
I have not much to add on the Japan front – There is some talk of Hatoyama stepping down before the House of Councillors election this year but I personally do not think, barring any further indiscretions, that this is a viable choice. While one motivation for the public to vote in the DPJ might have been to clean up politics, I think the electorate is a bit more realistic than that – especially when you have a party that draws personnel from the ancien regime. That is not to say that the latest revelations are acceptable but my impression would be that the real change the public wanted was for actual policy changes to be made and this requires stability. I think if Hatoyama was to push on beyond this current crisis, perhaps extracted a few concessions from the US on Futenma (ie anything that does not look like what the status quo would have been and thus look like Japan actually engaged competently in a game of Real Politik with the US), and actually implemented a few manifesto promises, then the public would be rather more forgiving. More importantly for the DPJ I feel that they have little choice – nothing short of further criminal activities or the DPJ losing seats at the House of Councillors election would, given the recent political history of the role of the PM, justify a change in replacement.
Of course how the Ozawa problem is dealt with is a wild card here – it appears as if the DPJ senses that something is up*and is not looking to quitely extricate Ozawa from the party – one hopes for their sake that the prosecutor’s office has overstepped the mark or else this could look rather messy.
If some of these challenges pan out positively and there is at least one substantial policy win before the HoC election later this year, Hatoyama might well be looking very different (Queue in one hour a shock announcement of his stepping down from the PM post).
Update – The latest NHK survey of the Cabinet seems to suggest that the public’s expectation is per the above post – especially amongst those unaffiliated voters:
Asked about why they did not support the Hatoyama Cabinet, 46% of that segment of the public cited the lack of capability of implementing policy, and another 26% said they did not have any expectations about its policies. On the question of what they hoped to see tackled by the cabinet, 23% of the public listed social security, such as pensions and health care, 23% wanted elimination of waste of tax money, and 21% said jobs and the economy.