Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Japanese lawmaker defects in blow to ‘old guard’

A senior lawmaker defected from Japan’s ruling party on Tuesday, denouncing beleaguered Prime Minister Taro Aso as an ”old-guard crony” and casting a shadow over his controversial moves to revive the economy.

Yoshimi Watanabe, former minister for administrative reforms, had pressed Aso to call snap elections to win a mandate and scrap a plan for cash handouts to the public totalling two trillion yen ($22-billion).

The 56-year-old, whose father was a well-known foreign minister, announced he had left the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) just after a key parliamentary committee approved an extra budget for the current year.

Watanabe showed a packed news conference a letter stating he had left the LDP, which has been in office for all but 10 months since 1955 but is widely seen to be at risk of losing elections, which must be held by September this year.

”The biggest reason that I am leaving the party is that the LDP currently operates a kind of politics that it closed off from the public,” Watanabe said.

”Prime Minister Aso is the spokesman for Kasumigaseki’s old-guard cronies,” he said, referring to the Tokyo district that is home to Japan’s powerful bureaucracy.

Watanabe argued that the conservative premier’s cash stipends were a gimmick that would do little to lift Japan out of recession while worsening the country’s ballooning debt.

But the budget committee of the lower house pressed ahead and passed the emergency spending for the current year through March, virtually ensuring it will come into force.

The opposition controls the less powerful upper house but the lower chamber can override it.

Aso said the cash handouts were needed to lift Japan, where companies are slashing tens of thousands of jobs as overseas demand dries up for cars, electronics and other export.

The current economic crisis ”is a once-in-a-hundred-years event that no one has experienced,” he told the parliamentary committee.

”In the short term, it is the right move to stimulate the economy by fiscal measures,” Aso added.

Watanabe, speaking later at his news conference, mocked Aso’s remarks, saying: ”As for a once-in-a-century crisis, there is a need to build a once-in-a-century political system.”

While Watanabe is the first to bolt, a number of liberal-minded LDP lawmakers have criticised Aso, whose government’s popularity has plummeted to below 20% a little more than three months after taking office.

Watanabe was particularly incensed after Aso put on the backburner reforms to end Japan’s common practice of retired civil servants taking cushy positions at private companies — sometimes ones they once were in charge of regulating.

”Once again this country is nothing more than one led by bureaucrats and its politics will continue to disenchant the people,” Watanabe said.

Watanabe is expected either to stay independent or form a new party.

He said he would meet with ”high-spirited people” who are trying to change Japan.

Aso’s government played down Watanabe’s rebellion, saying it reflected one person’s views.

”I don’t think this will have a big influence,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told reporters.

But Minister for Land and Transport Kazuyoshi Kaneko acknowledged that the departure showed the tough situation for the LDP.

”He must be leaving the party because he thinks the LDP will lose in the general elections,” Kaneko said. – Sapa-AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Kyoko Hasegawa
Kyoko Hasegawa
Staff writer at Agence France Presse.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

‘People feel they have a stake in SAA’ — Gidon...

Interest in the beleaguered national carrier, which has received billions of rands in public funding, means criticism is inevitable

Soweto teacher dismissed for the alleged repeated rape of a...

The learner was 13 when the alleged rapes started, and they continued for two years until she asked to be moved to another school

More top stories

Hospitals near capacity: What the new Covid-19 restrictions mean for...

After a dramatic surge in Covid-19 infections, President Ramaphosa has brought the country back to level three restrictions

Eskom to take over distribution, billing at troubled Free State...

The Maluti-a-Phofung local municipality owes the power utility more than R5-billion

ANC committed to paying staff salaries, but employees are not...

ANC staffers picketed outside Luthuli House on Tuesday after months of problems with salary payments

Kanalelo Boloetsi: Taking on Lesotho’s cellphone giants, and winning

A man who took on cellphone data regulators over out-of-bundle rates is featured in this edition of a series on human rights defenders in the SADC region
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×