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  1. Koizumi and Japanese Politics: Reform Strategies and Leadership Style
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  3. Junichiro Koizumi: Maverick reformer left Japan all shook up | The Japan Times
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Critics said that the move would lead to job losses and weaken the LDP's support base. The bill was defeated in parliament in August , so Mr Koizumi called - and overwhelmingly won - an election, a poll that quickly became a referendum on postal reform.

Koizumi and Japanese Politics: Reform Strategies and Leadership Style

Image Mr Koizumi's willingness to confront his own party and initiate reform won him popular support, as did his flamboyancy. He attracted attention with his open passion for music - opera and Elvis - and there was, of course, his much-celebrated hair style. Mr Koizumi's eccentricities have helped him engage with the public "It was interesting to follow Koizumi, and you can't often say that about a Japanese prime minister.

While the presence of troops may not have been strategically vital, it was a much-appreciated gesture to the US. The dispatch - as well as others to support Afghan operations and Indonesian reconstruction - and a series of high profile visits by Mr Koizumi to areas including North Korea, the Middle East and Central Asia, showed Japan was seeking a higher profile on the international stage. After the Iraq dispatch went through under special legislation, Mr Koizumi proposed a constitutional revision allowing the deployment of troops on peace-keeping missions.

Mr Koizumi's shrine visits have angered countries in the region The idea of revision is domestically unpopular and may be years away. But, says Dr Hyde, it is now "a whole new debate that they never had before". But constitutional revision would not please Japan's neighbours, and it is in regional relationships that Mr Koizumi's record is most open to criticism.

Ties with China have deteriorated to their worst state in decades because of a row over his visits to the controversial war-linked Yasukuni shrine. The two countries are also at odds over undersea resources that both claim, although bilateral trade continues to grow. Dr Hyde says Mr Koizumi's attitude towards China is ill-judged.

Equally, countries in the region fear what they perceive as a creeping return to nationalist attitudes of the past.

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Dr Hyde believes that nationalist sentiment is on the up, albeit within a small minority. His economic reforms will take time to play out and, while he has opened the debate on several new policy areas, they remain to be completed by his successor. There are also a number of issues that Mr Koizumi leaves unresolved, such as the declining birth-rate and concern over rising income disparities.

And it remains to be seen whether the changes he brought to the Japanese political scene are permanent. Dr Hyde foresees a partial return to a more traditional leadership style.

But this is in part because Mr Koizumi was such a departure from leaders of the past. He was in incredibly dynamic leader," said Mr Szechenyi. Low graphics Accessibility help. News services Your news when you want it. News Front Page. E-mail this to a friend Printable version. Mr Koizumi is due to step down at the end of September. He created an image of himself that the media could catch on to.

Mr Koizumi's eccentricities have helped him engage with the public.

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Perhaps the best exemplar of this tendency was Takeshita Noboru He too brought about major changes in political policy, pushing through a series of major reforms of the tax system, including the introduction of a consumption tax. These changes were introduced following a careful, thorough consideration of the situation that involved the ruling party, relevant government ministries, and business and industry. It was a process quite different from that employed by the Koizumi government. In this respect, the leaders of the recent short-lived governments have been quite different from their predecessors.

In the era of rivalry among the LDP factions, a prime minister would often face calls to resign from rival factions inside the party following major losses of parliamentary seats in an election or low levels of public support. There is no doubt that this contributed to the longevity of LDP rule.

In order to protest openly against the party leadership today, however, the disgruntled party member needs to be ready to pay the price in terms of party endorsements and allocation of political funding. This means that criticism of the party from within generally tends to be weaker than it used to be. Because of this, a leader is often able to limp on beyond his natural expiry date, postponing his resignation long after the point when his government has clearly lost all momentum. This was the case with Abe in and with Hatoyama earlier this year.

One result of strengthening the power of the executive branch is that the prime minister now has a greater degree of autonomy when it comes to choosing the moment of his own demise. The prime ministers since Koizumi have clearly been operating under conditions quite different from those their predecessors faced. As the result of reforms that have changed the electoral system and strengthened the cabinet, they now enjoy powers both as party leader and prime minister that were only incompletely secured by previous systems.

That so many prime ministers since Koizumi have proved incapable of using these powers is due to limiting factors in areas that were not affected by the reforms of the s, such as the development of talent within the parties and the presence of the House of Councillors. In other words, it is not merely possible to discuss the question of prime ministerial leadership from the institutionalist perspective; it is necessary to do so.

Junichiro Koizumi: Maverick reformer left Japan all shook up | The Japan Times

But this is a probability, not a certainty. The mere fact that the prime minister is now supplied with a more promising system and more promising conditions does not by itself necessarily guarantee strong leadership. Likewise, merely providing the systemic conditions for a prime minister to exert strong leadership does not imply successful policies. As I mentioned above, there is a greater possibility today that the prime minister will be able to transform his opinions and decisions into political policies.

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But the decisions themselves are not produced by the system itself: They depend entirely on the political wisdom and insight of the prime minister and his advisors. Improving the way that up-and-coming politicians are trained within their parties may increase the possibility that a candidate capable of making the right decisions will emerge in the future—but of course this too is nothing more than a probability.

Nevertheless, considering the conditions under which the prime minister is likely to exert strong leadership is not altogether meaningless. Perhaps the chief weakness of the individualist approach is that it necessarily deduces the qualities of strong political leaders a posteriori by looking at examples from the past. The problem with this approach is it is impossible to know how relevant this information is to the present time, or how relevant it will be in the future. The greatest significance of the institutionalist argument may therefore be this: It is able to make predictions and forecasts based on a logical position when a new type of leader emerges, even if these predictions must necessarily be probabilities rather than certainties.

Ultimately, a strong prime minister is one who can make use of the systemic conditions in place to reach appropriate decisions in the areas of policymaking and government management. This may seem a rather obvious, even mundane, thing to say. However, we have no alternative but to take this as our point of departure in considering what form prime ministerial leadership might take. In the remainder of this article, I would like to think in more concrete terms about the conditions that might see a strong prime minister emerge in Japan in the future. First of all, in order to take advantage of the systemic conditions already in place, a prime minister needs to make full use of his authority both as leader of his own party and as prime minister.

It is not surprising that a prime minister who renounces this authority should struggle to steer the rudder of government. Along with the cabinet, the party leaders are there to assist and advise the prime minister. Together, these two groups form the core executive. The DPJ did away with its Policy Research Committee for a time—but a political party with no forum for debating policy is a strange thing indeed.

What is important is that the wishes of the prime minister as party leader should be clearly reflected during the decision-making process within the governing party. If the prime minister sets the basic direction on policy and legislation is proposed that accurately reflects these views, then it should be possible for concrete ideas to emerge from the leading party during this process.

It is likely that serious consideration will need to be given to the state of the House of Councillors, including major systemic reforms. I have already discussed this subject elsewhere, so I will not go into details here. Suffice it to say that reforming the House of Councillors does not simply mean strengthening the power of the prime minister. Instead, the aim of any reforms should be to protect the integrity of the bicameral system and to make the House of Councillors a house that accurately reflects the views of minority interests and ideas.

More difficult is the question of how to develop the decision-making ability of up-and-coming politicians. The status quo has long been criticized for its failings, and there has been no shortage of politicians with the potential to become leaders who have been enfeebled by a lack of cultivation and wider accomplishments beyond politics. These arguments have become stronger recently.

There is also something to the argument that insight and discernment are more important than English-language skills or Internet savvy when it comes to evaluating our potential leaders. It should not be forgotten, however, that voters and the media play a large part in deciding what is demanded of politicians in any given age.

And it is voters and the media who have recently come to value language skills, Internet literacy, and an affable manner during regular interactions with journalists, dismissing as unfit for leadership any politician who happens to be lacking in these areas. The first step must be to reevaluate these criteria. At the same time, we need to improve the ability of aspiring young politicians to make decisions based on substance and conviction. This will include making it easier for them to get the advice they need, when they need it.

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What do we need to do to improve the situation? What kind of environment should we aim to provide, and who should serve as advisors? The individualist argument will make its presence felt strongly in this context. They also reflect a decline in the ability to consider and debate politics and the ability of voters to take these arguments on board. Now is the time for the advocates of both positions to engage in a constructive dialogue to produce a breakthrough once and for all.

All Rights Reserved. Discuss Japan Main Contents Search. Subscribe Newsletter. The Institutionalist View Essentially, the institutionalist argument that saw Koizumi as the first in a line of strong prime ministers rested on two main points.