Ruling Coalition Loses Supermajority
SNA (Tokyo) — The following stories were reported in the second half of July 2019 by the Shingetsu News Agency.
Rolling Coverage: House of Councillors Elections
—Asahi Shinbun reports that when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appeared at a street speech in Sapporo on the the 15th, he was heckled by some onlookers. The hecklers were then taken away from the venue by police, who claimed they posed a security risk.
—House of Councillors Elections: All-Okinawa candidate Tetsumi Takara defeats a pro-base challenger backed by the Abe government.
—House of Councillors Elections: Taiga Ishikawa, a key LGBT leader, elected on the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan list.
—House of Councillors Elections: Former Social Democratic Party leader Tadatomo Yoshida to return to the Diet.
—House of Councillors Elections: Ichita Yamamoto elected Governor of Gunma Prefecture.
—House of Councillors Elections: Liberal Democratic Party executive Tomomi Inada declares that the election results are tantamount to the Japanese people’s approval of the consumption tax hike to 10% in October.
—House of Councillors Elections: Big win for the opposition! Shizuka Terata wins the Akita single-member district. Aegis Ashore and the lying liars of the Abe government Defense Ministry cost the ruling party its seat in this prefecture.
—House of Councillors Elections: Shigefumi Matsuzawa, now affiliated with the Japan Innovation Party, retains his seat in Kanagawa Prefecture.
—House of Councillors Elections: Another big win for the opposition! Sakura Uchikoshi beats “sontaku” Ichiro Tsukada in the single-seat Niigata district.
—House of Councillors Elections: Former Hokkaido Governor Harumi Takahashi succeeded in her bid to switch to the House of Councillors, winning her seat as a ruling party candidate.
—House of Councillors Elections Final Results: Liberal Democratic Party (57 seats); Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (17 seats); Komeito (14 seats); Japan Innovation Party (10 seats); Independents (9 seats); Communist (7 seats); Democratic Party For the People (6 seats); Reiwa Shinsengumi (2 seats); Social Democratic Party (1 seat); Protect the Nation from NHK (1 seat).
—House of Councillors Elections: While he managed to get two Reiwa Shinseigumi candidates, both with physical impairments, elected, Taro Yamamoto himself was not reelected in spite of gaining an extremely high number of votes.
—House of Councillors Elections: Takashi Tachibana of the Protect the Nation from NHK Party is now a national lawmaker, his party having gained enough votes to win a seat.
—House of Councillors Elections: The big news out of the election is that the opposition parties performed well enough to strip the pro-Constitution revision parties of their supermajority, which is a major win.
—House of Councillors Elections: Ichiro Ozawa proves that he is still the master of Iwate Prefecture, defeating the disloyal LDP incumbent Tatsuo Hirano with a newcomer loyal to his cause.
—House of Councillors Elections: One point made very clear in this election is that Tohoku is the one major region of the nation where elections between the ruling party and the opposition are more-or-less an even match.
—Although this House of Councillors election seemed boring and had low voter turnout, it may actually prove to be highly consequential. This may have been the election in which the window of opportunity closed for the Japanese rightwing’s desire to rewrite the Constitution.
—A total of 28 female lawmakers were elected, tying the record set in the last House of Councillors election held in 2016. Since there were more female candidates, their success rate was lower this time around at 22.6%.
—The Social Democratic Party slipped the executioner once again, gaining more than 2% of the party proportional representation votes and thus maintaining their legal status as a national political party until the July 2022 elections.
—Both Reiwa Shinsengumi and Protect the Nation from NHK now meet the criteria to register as national political parties and to receive public funding. They both gained more than 2% of the party proportional representation votes across the nation.
—The Japan Innovation Party (Ishin) showed some strength outside of the Kansai region for the first time. They won a district seat in Tokyo and were competitive in other areas. The party’s appeal seems to be moving beyond Osaka.
—Akiko Santo of the Liberal Democratic Party wins her 8th election to the House of Councillors, making her the longest-serving lawmaker in the chamber. She was first elected in 1974 as an actress recruited to politics by then-Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka.
—While the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan emerges stronger in the wake of the House of Councillors election, it certainly fell far short of its potential. It ran a surprisingly uninspiring campaign with few eye-catching policy proposals or genuine enthusiasm.
—Jiji Press exit polls reveal that the ruling Liberal Democratic Party received 25.5% of swing voters’ votes, while the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan’s share fell to only 21.0% of these votes. This is more evidence of the disappointing campaign run by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
—Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers clearly understand that the party underperformed in the House of Councillors election, and that Reiwa Shinsengumi stole away part of the public enthusiasm they enjoyed in the October 2017 general elections. What is not clear about the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan yet is whether or not they are now ready to stop being so cautious and conventional, and begin to really distinguish themselves as a progressive party. Yukio Edano and his team is operating from an old political playbook, and it’s showing.
—The final figure on voter turnout in the House of Councillors election is 48.8%. With the single exception of the 1995 elections, this marks a historic low.
Rolling Coverage: South Korea Relations
—Japan’s restrictions on exports to South Korea related to chip manufacturing have inadvertently benefited (for the moment) the two companies Samsung and SK Hynix, which they were intended to harm. Share prices of the two have risen 2% and 9% respectively. The reason markets have looked sanguinely upon the export restrictions is because it is expected that the hampered production of chips by Samsung and SK Hynix will ease the glut of memory chips caused by a global decline in spending on electronics and the US-China trade war.
—South Korean President Moon Jae-In, while calling for a diplomatic solution, has issued a warning to Japan about its continued economic pressure on Korea, saying it will not succeed and that Japan’s economy will suffer great damage.
—South Korean President Moon Jae-In: “The shattered credibility of cooperation with Japan in the manufacturing industry will inspire our companies to break their dependence on Japanese materials, components, and equipment, and work toward diversifying import sources or localizing the technologies.”
—South Korean lawyers to ask court to begin seizure of Mitsubishi Heavy Industry assets in line with Supreme Court ruling on wartime Forced Labor. Mitsubishi has been refusing to talk, obeying the commands of the Abe government.
—Amir Anvarzadeh, senior markets strategist at Asymmetric Advisors, tells Bloomberg television: “We think this is a very big self-inflicted wound by the Japanese… [Korea] will kick the Japanese out of the supply chain altogether.”
—Foreign Minister Taro Kono reiterates that the Abe government is ready to retaliate against South Korea if any Japanese company’s assets are seized due to the Forced Labor rulings of the Supreme Court.
—South Korea set to reject the Abe government’s demand that an arbitration panel brokered by a third country be established to mediate bilateral history disputes. Abe’s gratuitous addition of a “deadline” for Seoul’s response pretty much doomed to proposal from the start.
—Under criticism in Washington for doing nothing, the Trump administration is reluctantly starting to come around to the view that they need to mediate between Tokyo and Seoul over the quickly escalating confrontation.
—Abe government officials suggesting that they want to take their Forced Labor dispute with South Korea to the International Court of Justice should Seoul continue to reject a third-party arbitration process.
—Amidst South Korea’s diplomatic row with Japan, Seoul is hinting that it may consider refusing the renewal of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), a military information sharing pact with Tokyo, which is due to be renewed in November.
—A South Korean man has set himself ablaze outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, reportedly in protest against the Japanese government. His father-in-law was conscripted as a forced laborer when Korea was a Japanese colony in the 20th century, said his family.
—Foreign Minister Taro Kono summons South Korea Ambassador Nam Gwan-Pyo to lodge formal protest over Seoul’s refusal to accept an arbitration panel, which Kono calls a “violation of international law.” When Nam makes a different suggestion, Kono denounces him as being “rude.”
—Foreign Minister Taro Kono making some extravagant claims about the implications of the Moon administration’s diplomatic positions: “What the South Korean government is doing now is equivalent to subverting the Post-World War II international order.” In many ways, however, it is the Shinzo Abe regime and its rightwing allies that have been “subverting the post-World War II international order” by trying to whitewash the nation’s war crimes, downplay the reasons for the defeat, and create narratives that Japan was the real victim.
—Six protesters in Busan broke into the Japanese Consulate to decry Japan’s recent export restrictions and other bilateral disputes. They were admitted to the Consulate to use the library, which they did. Later they rushed into the courtyard holding a sign declaring “Abe Must Apologize!” The six were promptly arrested.
—Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya calls for the renewal of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with South Korea. The bilateral agreement had been signed in November 2016 with much pushing from the then-Obama administration.
—Abe government retaliates against South Korea by producing 2020 Olympics maps showing Dokdo-Takeshima as Japanese territory. This appears to be tit-for-tat over the two Koreas showing the island as part of Korea in a flag used at the time of the Pyeongchang Olympics.
—US National Security Adviser John Bolton says Washington will not mediate the dispute between Japan and South Korea over Comfort Women and Forced Labor. The US government played a key role by not forcing Japan to deal with its war crimes in Asia during the Occupation Era. This not to mention the roles the US played after the Occupation, with its Cold War policies involving support for war criminals like Nobusuke Kishi, Abe’s grandfather, to take political control of postwar Japan. Washington is as guilty as Tokyo and Seoul for the disputes.
—The South Korean government has decided to speed up preparations to formally lodge a complaint against Japan in the World Trade Organization. Meanwhile, anti-Abe protests in Seoul are increasing, and the movement to boycott Japanese goods is spreading.
—Busan city in South Korea announces that it will halt all exchange programs with Japanese local governments and organizations until bilateral relations have improved. Japan boycott movements strengthening in South Korea.
—After Busan announced plans to suspend its exchange programs with Japan, the movement is sweeping across South Korea, with local governments one after another telling Japanese partners that their exchange programs are being suspended.
—Korean Air Lines to suspend its flights between Busan and Sapporo. South Koreans, who represent a major part of Japan’s tourism boom, are cancelling plans to visit Japan due to public anger against the Abe government and its hostile stance toward the Seoul government.
—Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga reiterates that Japan wants to maintain the 2016 General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with South Korea. Reportedly, Seoul is considering the option of not renewing the military pact with Tokyo.
—The US government is proposing a “standstill agreement” between Japan and South Korea to hold current bilateral agreements in place and prevent major escalations in the confrontation while the two countries figure a way out of their impasse.
Rolling Coverage: Russia Relations
—Acting Governor of Sakhalin Valeri Limarenko meets residents of Kunashir to discuss problems on the Southern Kurils. The main concerns were the lack of healthcare specialists, transport access, dilapidated housing, and environmental issues related to waste management. Limarenko was able to promise improvements, including a new hospital on Kunashir by 2023. Six apartment buildings are already under construction on Kunashir and Shikotan with space for 96 families. Work on another twelve will begin in 2020.
—At the end of World War II, there were 17,291 Japanese residents of what are now known as the Northern Territories. As of March 2019, 5,913 of these former islanders remained alive (average age: 84.1). There are 16,501 second-generation former islanders (average age: 55.7).
—Sankei, Asahi, Mainichi all agree that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s approach to the Russia territorial issue (Southern Kurils-Northern Territories) needs to be fundamentally reconsidered. Yomiuri, Nikkei support continuing the government’s approach.
—Russian media reports that Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev is planning to visit Iturup, in the disputed Southern Kurils, in August. He last visited in summer 2015. Medvedev has also visited Kunashir on two occasions (November 2010 and July 2012).
—The South Korean military fired two warning shots at a Russian military aircraft that violated its airspace above Dokdo (Takeshima). South Korea’s response seems much more forthright than Japan’s reaction to a similar violation of its airspace by Russian aircraft on June 20. But Japan says it, not Korea, should have taken action on Russian plane over Dokdo-Takeshima. Foreign Minister Taro Kono: “It is Japan that should take action against the Russian plane that entered its airspace. It is incompatible with Japan’s stance that South Korea takes steps on that.”
—Japan has issued protest notes to both Russia and South Korea following the incident over Dokdo-Takeshima. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga: “This situation is extremely regrettable. Such actions by foreign militaries over our territory are unacceptable.”
—Japan is working to persuade Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev not to visit Iturup. Japanese officials say that such visits are inconsistent with Japan’s position and could affect peace treaty talks.
—In a major move, Shinzo Abe government is going crazy about South Korea again, this time deciding to strip South Korea from its list of trusted trading partners. After years of trying and failing to intimidate Korea into accepting its history whitewash, another try.
—Responding to Russian President Medvedev’s expected visit to Iturup and the violation of airspace by Russian aircraft, Yuichiro Tamaki says the Abe government needs to go back to the drawing board regarding Russia policy, including joint projects on the disputed islands.
—Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai again arguing that party rules should be changed to let Shinzo Abe serve a 4th term as party president, potentially letting him be prime minister until 2024, a total of 12 years if it actually played out.”
—Taro Yamamoto is suggesting that Reiwa Shinsengumi will run about 100 candidates in the next House of Representatives elections. It seems that a progressive party is emerging to the political left of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan.
—One possibility to look out for is a merger of Reiwa Shinsengumi and the Social Democratic Party under Taro Yamamoto’s leadership, especially since the latter is on the verge of losing its legal status as a national political party.
—Reiwa Shinsengumi leader Taro Yamamoto states that his ultimate political goal is to himself become prime minister of Japan in future years. His party gained more than 4.5% of all party votes in the House of Councillors elections three months after it was created in April.
—Taro Yamamoto is being courted by other opposition parties who see that his party has captured the public enthusiasm that they have lacked. However, most of them are wary of his policy goal of abolishing the consumption tax.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expected to try to salvage his Constitution revision plans by luring support from the centrist Democratic Party For the People, which does include some right-leaning lawmakers like Kazuya Shimba and Yuichiro Hata, who might be interested.
—Not terribly surprisingly, centrist opposition party leader Yuichiro Tamaki suddenly stabs all the other opposition parties in the back and declares willingness to discuss revising the Constitution with the Abe government. This is typical of Japan’s center-right opposition. In this case, however, Tamaki didn’t coordinate his new stand even with executives in his own Democratic Party For the People, so there is talk of forcing him to climb down or even replacing him as leader.
—Rengo still working behind the scenes to push the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan and the Democratic Party For the People to reunify into a new (old) Democratic Party, a muddled collection of progressives and moderate conservatives, just like Rengo itself.
—Lawmakers Kazunori Yamanoi and Michiyoshi Yunoki are permitted to join the House of Representatives parliamentary caucus of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. The Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan lower house caucus thus reaches 70 lawmakers, far ahead of the Democratic Party For the People’s 39 lawmakers.
—There is talk of a Cabinet reshuffle coming in September, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who helps Abe control the government, and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, who helps Abe control the ruling party factions, are both tipped to be safe, once again.
—Kyodo News poll shows that only 32.2% (less than a third) of the general public supports Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s desire to revise Article 9 of the Constitution. Those who oppose Abe’s plan amount to a majority, 56.0%
—Jiji Press estimates that the amount of public subsidies that Reiwa Shinsengumi will receive as a result of it becoming a legally-designated national political party will be set at about 67 million yen (US$620,000) for this year.
—Protect the Nation from NHK looks like it is already gaining its second lawmaker as scandal-ridden Hodaka Maruyama (of “war with Russia” infamy) has applied to join the new party.
—Protect the Nation from NHK leader Takashi Tachibana agrees with Yoshimi Watanabe to create a new parliamentary caucus in the House of Councillors that will revive the name Your Party (minna no to) of Watanabe’s past political party.
—Ruling and opposition parties reach consensus to renovate the Diet Building to better accommodate people with severe disabilities. This policy triggered by the election of Yasuhiko Funago and Eiko Kimura of Reiwa Shinsengumi.
—The Abe government will reportedly establish a panel in coming months to consider broad issues related to the Imperial succession, especially the concern that the current rules are likely to lead to the Imperial line dying out in the not-so-distant future.
—Komeito leaders concerned as their party vote totals are in structural decline. The low voter turnout has been disguising it as far as their number of seats won, but next time floating voters show up at the polls, Komeito is headed for trouble.
—Ruling party executive Koichi Hagiuda says that House of Representatives Speaker Tadamori Oshima should be replaced if he doesn’t allow a lot of parliamentary time for Constitution revision debate. Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai warns Hagiuda to know his place.
—Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya is asked at a press conference whether or not Japan will be sending warships to the Persian Gulf as part of the Trump administration’s anti-Iran coalition: “At this stage we are not thinking about it,” he answers.
—William Hagerty confirmed to be in the process of resigning as US Ambassador to Japan and is expected to leave Japan before the end of the month. His tenure lasted only two years and was mostly low key.
—Japan will host 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development in August. Japan is facing growing competition with China, South Korea, India, USA, and the EU having held similar events. Now Russia is joining too with Russia-Africa Summit in October.
—International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Yukiya Amano has passed away at age 72. His illness was not revealed, but it had recently been announced that he would be leaving his post before his current term was completed.
—Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s congratulatory message to incoming British Prime Minister Boris Johnson includes an admonition to avoid a “No Deal Brexit.” Johnson campaigned on the notion that he isn’t afraid of a No Deal exit from the European Union.
—If a US military aircraft crashes anywhere in Japan, current SOFA rules allow the US to cordon off the area and refuse to let Japanese residents and authorities access their own home and lands. The United States has now agreed to be “expeditious” in allowing Japanese access.
—Defense News reports that the Abe government formally requested to the US government to become an industrial base partner in the F-35 jet fighter program, but that the Pentagon is preparing to meet that request with a firm rejection.
—Johnny & Associates talent agency is under investigation from the Fair Trade Commission for possibly threatening television stations not to invite musicians who left the agency. With Johnny Kitagawa’s recent death, it seems that the entertainment power structure is shifting.
—Carlos Ghosn launching lawsuit in the Netherlands against Nissan Motors and Mitsubishi Motors for breach of contract, arguing that he was improperly terminated from his job.
—Nissan has announced in recent months that it will be laying off almost 15,000 people from its global workforce of almost 140,000, more than 10% of its staff. Considering the post-Ghosn management’s total lack of vision, its likely only the beginning of the decline.
—Swiss prosecutors reveal that they have been assisting Japanese prosecutors on the Carlos Ghosn case, probably meaning that they have been investigating Ghosn’s bank accounts and feeding that information to the Japanese side.
—Novatek announces that the sale of stakes in Arctic LNG-2 is now complete: Novatek 60%, Japan Arctic LNG 10%, Total 10%, CNPC 10%, CNOOC 10%. (Japan Arctic LNG is JOGMEC 75%, Mitsui & Co. 25%, though Mitsui has more than 50% of voting rights).
—ANA is to begin operating its new Narita-Vladivostok route in March 2020. Surprisingly, this is the first time ANA has operated a route that has Russia as its final destination. Russian demand for travel to Japan has sharply increased in recent years.
—Hiroaki Nakanishi, who is being treated for lymphoma, is expected to return to his duties as chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) from September 9. He was hospitalized in May.
—Marubeni Corporation is partnering with Lithuania-based WePower on a blockchain power purchasing platform that will focus on solar and wind power in Australia. The plan is to facilitate the ability of small businesses to buy power from renewable energy developers.
—Shimizu to invest 50 billion yen (US$463 million) to build world’s largest vessel for use in offshore wind farm construction by 2022. The vessel, a self-propelled, self-elevating platform, will be 142 m long, 50 m wide, and capable of holding seven 8-megawatt wind turbines.
—Interstellar Technologies fails in attempt to launch a small observation rocket into space. This is a setback for Japan’s developing commercial space industry. The failure is being blamed on a computer malfunction.
—Tokyo’s five major private television networks, which have tried to avoid serious engagement with the online world for many years, are reluctantly concluding that they will need to start offering online streaming of their programming.
—If Tokyo has been feeling very drab recently, it’s for good reason. The Japan Meteorological Agency confirms that in recent weeks there has been less sunshine than in any year going back until at least the 1980s.
—Ministry of Foreign Affairs continues its war against Japan’s conflict zone journalists by denying a passport to ex-hostage Junpei Yasuda. This denial doesn’t just mean Yasuda can’t go back to a war zone, but can’t travel to Korea or Australia or anywhere else.
—An arsonist used gasoline to burn down the Kyoto Animation production studio. The death toll was 35 with dozens more injured. The arsonist, Shinji Aoba, himself was among the seriously injured, having burned himself accidentally. He reportedly believed the animation studio had plagiarized a novel he’d written.
—Kyoto Animation artworks to be seen widely in Japan in the coming months as bookstores and anime shops preparing to hold various exhibitions as a memorial to the arson tragedy.
—Crime wave! Tokyo police receive tip that some rock musicians may be using marijuana. They investigate for a month. They raid the private homes of the musicians and discover tiny amounts of marijuana. Arrests made. Another great triumph for the Forces of Law and Order!
—Shibuya’s rapid transformation continues apace, with the announcement that the 85-year-old Tokyu Department Store building, right next to scramble, will be closing in March. The company has not yet revealed what it will be doing with this prime bit of real estate.
—Japan Federation of Bar Associations declares that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right because “all people are equal under the law” and have the freedom to marry whomever they wish. The current legal system, they say, is violating the rights of LGBT people.
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