Tokyo Governor Inose Naoki today announced that he has informed the head of the municipal assembly of his intention to resign his office. Inose's move comes at the end of weeks of nearly incessant calls for his resignation. Inose accepted and never declared a personal no-interest, no-expiration-date loan of 50 million yen from the family owners of the Tokushukai medical empire, currently under investigation for massive violations of the nation's voting laws in last December's House of Representatives election. (Link)
Inose has, as yet, not been charged with any impropriety in accepting the private loan -- or for having returned the money in haste after the executives of the Tokushukai were rounded up and arrested. A citizens group has filed an official complaint with the Tokyo Prosecutors' Office asking for an investigation into Inose's possibly failing to declare the loan as a political donation. The prosecutors are obliged to look into the case but are unlikely to file charges. With Inose no longer in office it is possible the matter will end there. However, the citizens group can continue to hound Inose for years via the out-of-control Committee for the Inquest of the Prosecution system of citizens' indictments.
We have seen this movie too many times. An individual bubbles up from out of the murk, offering a chance to shake up the way the country operates. He then makes a mistake, or pushes too hard in trying overturn the Establishment -- and the investigators suddenly arrive. A credulous and craven media complex rushes in, broadcasting or publishing every rumor as fact, as though it were damning evidence of a criminal enterprise -- camouflaging all the while the sources whose assertions would not pass the smell test if their identities were known. The public, confused by the reporting and by inculcated and reinforced biases against rabble rousers, or desiring only that everything in life be quiet and unthreatening, abandons the previous crowd darling. Horie Takafumi, Murakami Yoshiaki, Ozawa Ichiro -- all toppled by nonsense accusations or perjured testimony. Now Inose Naoki, the most assiduous administrator the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has ever had and likely will ever have, joins the list.
That Inose's political position had become untenable became crystal clear when the Democratic Party of Japan came out against him. If there were any party or group that had a philosophical or ethical reason to call a timeout on the scrum against governor, it would be the party whose own term in power was hobbled and then cut short by the obscenely thin charges filed against the secretaries of its leader Ozawa and against Ozawa himself in 2009-11. In what is evidence of the DPJ's total lack of sense of what it stands for, the party jumped into the fray with both feet, with Assembly Member for Fuchu City Koyama Kunihiko turning in an almost hysterical performance at Tuesday's committee meeting. Party Leader Kaieda Banri, who as a protégé of Ozawa should know better, responded to news of Inose's plan to resign by saying, "Those voters who supported Inose are now forced to grasping at huge disappointment. Given that he came under a cloud of doubt, he should have resigned sooner." (Link - J)
The monumental stupidity of Kaeda's statement -- repudiating due process of law and the presumption of innocence -- reinforces the belief that the DPJ is doomed failure as long as he is the head of it.
As to why the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito, which supported Inose's candidature in 2012, should so suddenly turn against him, the answer is two-fold. First, by going after Inose for accepting Tokushukai money the LDP is making a bold bid to have the public forget that the money men in this affair, Tokuda Torao and Tokuda Takeshi -- were both LDP members of the House of Representatives. It is insane to believe that skewering Inose would cover up the LDP's fingerprints on the 50 million yen -- but goodness, it seems to have worked.
The other reason why the LDP wanted Inose gone is, unsurprisingly, money. Not paltry 50 million sums from the Tokudas -- real money. The hundreds of billions of yen that will be spent on Olympics-related construction and events preparations over the next six years. Inose rose to influence though penning books on the horrible waste inflicted by government budgets and the countryside by the construction industry, working at that time hand-in-glove with the LDP. If there is an eminence grise or noire in this drama, it is the members and supporters of the LDP's Road Tribe, who have long sought a means of wreaking vengeance on Inose for having turned the country against them.
With Inose the skeptic and critic out of the way, replaced with a more pliant successor, the Olympics can become the cover story for a thousand sins and abuses.
As for who will run in the by-election to elect a new governor, several names are being bandied about. Media types and Nagata-cho hallways rats have been flogging former Health Minister Masuzoe Yo'ichi as one likely to toss his hat in the ring. The resignation of Higashikokubaru Hideo from the Diet a week ago already initiated a burst of predictions he would be in the race.
The Sankei Shimbun, which has few scruples as to accuracy or plausability, has floated the names of LDP communications director Koike Yuriko (a Shisaku favorite legislator), Abe Shinzo's body double Hagiuda Ko'ichi and dark lord Minister of Education Shimomura Hakubun as potential candidates. (Link - J)
The hapless DPJ, which has a real opportunity to score points against the LDP in the aftermath of the publicly scorned passage of the Special Secrets Protection bill, has no idea whom it might nominate (Why am I not surprised?). Some in the DPJ are reportedly thinking the party should nominate Ren Ho, the House of Councillors member who heretofore has always been the bridesmaid in all big time political post guessing games.
Having the half-Taiwanese, sharp-tongued, whippet smart, media savvy, gorgeous and still youthful Ren Ho as the governor of Tokyo would send a plethora of positive messages to the world. Domestically, however, it would be a recipe for disaster. Prime Minister Abe's most consistently applause line when in conservative circles is an sarcastic echo of Ren Ho's famous question to government-supported supercomputer scientists who worked for 10 years without building an actual machine because they could never guarantee the machine would be #1 in the world. Incredulous that the geeks had consumed hundreds of millions of yen in government subsidies without producing anything, Ren Ho asked the project administrators, "What was wrong with being #2?" [So whenever Abe talks rouses the faithful with a "Let us pledge to be #1 in the world!" he is not riffing on Ezra Vogel; he is mocking Ren Ho.]
If the DPJ was smart, which it is not, it would nominate former Tottori governor and former Minister of Internal Affairs Katayama Yoshiro. The good professor actually knows and cares about administration and has a decent respect for the people's intelligence. Admirable qualities, those.
Why the race for governor matters, of course, is not that Tokyo is the most populous city in the country, that it is host of the national government or even that it will host the Olympics in 2020. It is that Tokyo Metropolitan Government is a fabulously wealthy local government, second only in economic/political significance to the U.S. states of California and Texas.
To sit behind the governor's desk inside the Tocho is a hell of responsibility. It needs a hell of a person.