Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Few More Brief Notes Upon the Kan Appointment

- Newly installed Minister of Finance Kan Naoto is known to be easily annoyed, having earned the nickname iraKan ("Kan the Irritable") early on in his political career. He will have to keep his irritability in check in his new position, however, as he and the DPJ will be dependent on the Finance Ministry bureaucracy's backing of the new government's attempts to claw away at the preverse perquisites of the parasitic ministries.

- The prime minister seems to have learned his lesson over the holidays: faced with a crisis in the form of Fujii Hirohisa's hospitalization and poor health prognosis, he found a successor within a day.

The inability to decide upon a course of action quickly, whether actual or seeming, has been the main cause of public unhappiness with the Hatoyama Cabinet. Fujii's resignation is terrible news for the prime minister: he has lost a capable and highly credible policy ally. However, the PM did not exacerbate his problems by dithering.

If Hatoyama can build upon the positive repercussions of this incident, either institutionalizing or internalizing a process by which he can make expeditious decisions, then he will likely see a reversal in the decline in his support numbers.

- Even after three months of a new administration, the media has found it hard to shake its tendency to associate smooth government operations or execution (un'ei) with good governance. The rushed, very public replacement of Finance Ministry old boy Fujii by Kan, who cut his political teeth in the consumer movement, is thus being portrayed as posing a huge threat to the Cabinet's ability to guide and execute policies (naikaku un'ei).

One has to receive this "the sky might be falling down" media hyperventilation with skepticism. Having so long reported on political decisionmaking with their ears against the crack of the closed rooms in which decisions were actually made, journalists and editors are misrepresenting both the messiness and uncertainty inherent in open government and the actual effectiveness of the previous opaque system.

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