Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo's Not So Great Day

The rats are staring at the rising water, their whiskers twitching.

Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo looked and sounded terrible in his one public appearance yesterday. It was as though he had stepped out in front of the microphones without having been briefed, leaving him sounding not merely diffident but clueless. Asked for his view of the resignation of President Pervez Musharraff of Pakistan, the PM released a string of inanities . Rather than stating clearly that the forced resignation of a nation's leader is a huge step into the unknown -- something that Prime Minister Fukuda really should be emphasizing right now -- he prattled on glumly about the likelihood of continuity (sashiatatte henka ga aru to wa omowanai ga ) - in Pakistan's relations with world.

Well, here's to hopin'.

The Prime Minister also tried to tie in a plug for legislation extending the dispatch of Maritime Self Defense Forces ships to the Indian Ocean. The appeal sounded flat-footed and forced.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Asō Tarō's collusion with the New Kōmeitō to undermine the Fukuda premiership continued apace, with Asō and LDP Diet Affairs Chairman Ōshima Tadamori ( Check out the URL - ya gotta admit, Ōshima's got a certain verve) meeting with their New Kōmeitō counterparts last night to plot strategy for the upcoming Diet session. With the deferral of the start of the Diet session to mid-September now a certainty, the supplementary budget bill is the new focus of coalition wheeling and dealing.

As the Mainichi Shimbun sees it, Asō and New Kōmeitō leader Ōta Akihiro are singing from the same score sheet:

New Kōmeitō leader Ōta Akihiro and LDP Secretary-General Asō Tarō sing a loud song in praise of a large-scale supplementary budget as the government's answer to current economic problems. Down in front of the platform, Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo is trying to prop up his sick partner "Economic Situation." The asides tell the story: the economic situation is out of puff (ikigire) and Prime Minister Fukuda is just lip-synching (kuchi paku).*

Image courtesy: Mainichi Shimbun, morning edition, August 19, 2008

Asō's blasé failure to defend the early start of the extraordinary Diet session and his peculiar undermining, as noted by Okumura Jun, of the government's plans to extend the MSDF dispatch to the Indian Ocean, is a stunningly bald betrayal of the PM.

Just to make the Mr. Fukuda's day complete, former Minister of Economics, Trade and Industry minister Amari Tadashi took a moment to draw the Prime Minister's line of ultimate failure. Three weeks ago Fukuda dumped Amari from the Cabinet a few hours after Amari's had flown back from the last ditch, round-the-clock efforts to save the Doha Round of trade negotiations. Amari returned the favor yesterday by proposing that Prime Minister Fukuda must resign should the popularity of the Cabinet fall below 20%.

Which could happen as early as late October.

Later - Tobias Harris of Observing Japan has more on the Amari Line.

* Memo to producers of Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies: when you set Japanese to thinking that lip-synching is cheesy, you know you have blown it .

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