Teppanyaki League Cabinet and Party Post Selections
Once the ever-so-slightly-fiddled-with postal reform bill passes both houses of the Diet (Trumpets! A triumphal procession at Tokyo Big Site with Koizumi dressed as Susa-no-o! Piranha versus Ball Python spectaculars!) Prime Minister Koizumi will want to move on to a reshuffling of his cabinet.
Remember how easy it used to be to work out who was going to be in the Cabinet? Five ministers from the Obuchi faction, four from the Miyazawa faction, four from the Mori faction, one from the Kyu Komoto faction…a mix of old and new, everybody with at least 6 elections to the House of Representatives or 3 to the House of Councilors and one token woman…Good times those were for analysts and political writers, fat times...
Well now those days are gone and we are not so self-assured. All the dailies had articles with titles along the lines of "Looking at the Cabinet and the Post-Koizumi Race." Reading them, I could do nothing but shout out the Sergeant Schultz* reaction:
"Nahsing! I see nahsing at all. Nahsing!"
First, how to proceed, now that the faction leaders have been brought so low? Hashimoto retired in disgrace. Watanuki, Tsushima and Hori, the three next most senior members of the Keiseikai are all no longer in the LDP. Kamei and Horiuchi are out on the street. Komoto is in the doghouse for abstaining from the postal vote.
How can the LDP bang out a cabinet when the faction heads can no longer lock horns over sake and kaseki ryori at some discrete ryotei?
Second, what to do about the Koizumi Children/Koizumi Proto-faction/Koizumi Sisters (the new name for Katayama/Inokuchi/Sato/Fujino axis)?
The new Diet will have 83 first-timers, a mass of loyal Koizumi coattail riders larger than the dominant Mori faction. High intellectual wattage, youthful moxie and telegenic appeal will go to waste if some of these newcomers are not given prominent place in the new order. Since these newcomers cannot rely on a slow climb up the factional ladder (Koizumi himself has asked the newcomers to put off joining factions), they need to be put to good use now. Otherwise, the most worthwhile of them will drop out after a few years out of sheer boredom.
A Hint from the Man
Trying to determine who might go where given the above conditions would drive one to distraction. The PM, however, has laid down a marker: whoever it is who shall succeed him next September will have to proven himself or herself worthy during the preceding 12 months.
This means that the really key positions in both the party and the cabinet will be filled by potential prime ministers.
It also is a brilliant way of guaranteeing that even as September approaches, the Koizumi Cabinet will just keep on humming. The prime ministerial candidates, eager to make a good impression, will be knocking themselves out until the very last day trying to get their bailiwicks to outperform everyone else's.
It might even mean that the top candidates will be too busy to fall back into the bad old habits of winning the prime ministership through factional math games.
Here is a first attempt t at the possible lineup of the party and cabinet posts come October. (Warning: the following contains at least one utterly gratuitous joke)
The Party Posts
Kanjicho – Machimura Nobutaka – because one needs un grand fromage from the Mori faction in this post
Kanjicho dairi – Koike Yuriko – because one would want her to gain some experience in negotiating the obstacle course of the party bureaucracy and yet keep her in the public eye
Somukaicho – Tanigaki Sadakazu – because he neuters every organization he is made leader of.
Seichokaicho – Inoguchi Kuniko – because the tekko no onna has sat on more commissions than any other Japanese of the postwar era. She can be counted on to promote Koizumi’s vision. She also might revive the PARC into a viable source of crude policy products.
Finance – Aso Taro – because you need an Aso in charge of how the money gets spent...and from all accounts, this guy an Aso.
Foreign – Yosano Kaoru – because he knows the exact meaning of every word he utters; never loses his cool; kept the PARC from challenging the kantei on policy formation issues; and Tokyo boys do not get jobs that involve the dishing out of pork.
Health & Welfare– Abe Shinzo – because working out a solution to the pension problem will be a difficult and thankless job. If he succeeds in producing something of value over the next few months, he deserves to be the next prime minister. If not, he will at least have been kept away from the foreign policy beat.
Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries – Takebe Tsutomu – because Hokkaido needs some love and homeboy Takebe can be trusted to provide it without blowing the budget.
Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications – Takenaka Heizo – because he should have to implement what he helped craft.
After this I am lost. I cannot guess the criteria Koizumi will be using in making his selections for:
Science & Education
Justice – all I know is that who ever it is, the individual will be old
Land Infrastructure and Transport
I Love to Laugh
As for the silly side of Sunday’s election, I do not know which story I like best:
1) the LDP’s Tokyo branch having to forfeit one seat because it did not have enough candidates to take all the proportional seats it had won, or
2) the supermarket manager whom Takebe called up at the last minute asking whether or not he would be willing to be on the tail end of the proportional list in his bloc. Now the poor guy has to find some to mind the store, or
3) the 26 year-old (Sugimura Taizo) who applied to be a proportional candidate by email and
whose life has been turned completely upside down. Since Sunday he has had to quit the company where he was about to be made a full-time employee; has had to buy a suit; and has had to find out what a member of the House of Representatives actually does.
Sugimura's crazed rants at his unexpected and unwanted good fortune have made great television. In one clip, he is standing on a sidewalk in a white t-shirt and slacks, reading out loud from a fax that explains the perks and privileges members of the Diet enjoy:
"Look at this! You get a rail pass! A rail pass good on any railway! Going anywhere! As far as you want! In the Green Car!
I HAVE NEVER EVEN BEEN IN THE GREEN CAR!!!"