Whether it be the Lockheed Scandal of the 1970s, the Recruit Scandal of the 1980s, or the more recent misadventures that shook the Abe administration, such as the fall of prominent ministers Akira Amari and Yuko Obuchi, the issue of “money and politics” is a theme that runs like a steam train through the center of postwar Japanese political history.
Senior members of the Shinzo Abe administration, from the prime minister on down, have already jumped into the Tokyo gubernatorial race to insist that candidates must not appeal to the public in terms of anti-nuclear policy, but instead according to what the government believes are the most “proper” subjects, namely preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and health care policy.
For almost a year now after his thumping victory in December 2012 we have found ourselves surprised again and again by Shinzo Abe. We have asserted repeatedly that the Abe that we were witnessing was not the “real” Abe, and that the agenda he was pursuing was based on a tactical calculation about what was necessary to maintain public support, but not a reflection of his basic character.
The results of Sunday’s House of Councillors election are a foregone conclusion in light of the electoral district system and the number of candidates run by each party. The ruling coalition of the LDP and New Komeito will win a strong majority in the upper house but cannot possibly win on their own the 2/3 majority required for constitutional revision. What we will have when the Diet next opens will be the Abe government popular with the public and in firm control of the parliament.
Female executives and government ministers in Japan probably always have a higher bar to cross to really be accepted in their positions. When she was Japan’s first foreign minister, the volatile and sharp-tongued Makiko Tanaka faced unprecedented open defiance from top bureaucrat Yoshiji Nogami. And if that seemed peculiar to the case of the changeable Tanaka, not many years later a quite similar thing happened to the first, and so far only, female defense minister, Yuriko Koike.