Monday, February 13, 2012

Essential Reading on Hashimoto Toru

This has been a fertile weekend for postings on the rolling snowball that is Hashimoto Toru.

First we have the essay from Spike Japan on the personal history, amazing sayings and local achievements of Osaka's more-than-just-a-mayor. (Link 1)

I, for one, do not really care if Hashimoto and his family came from the wrong side of the tracks. The Liberal Democratic Party's Nonaka Hiromu came from the wrong side of the tracks and he managed through grit, patience and knowing-where-you-had-dinner-last-night-and-with-whom to push past many a princeling and former elite bureaucrat to become a force within the party, eventually becoming secretary-general. Nonaka, however, never forgot about where he came from, and he would lacerate bureaucrats for their institutionalized prejudice against persons with suspicious ancestral addresses. Nonaka also retained a sympathy for Japan's North Korean population -- the country's least beloved and most misunderstood minority.

What worries me about Hashimoto is he has seems to have the airs of a self-made man. Few things are worse than self-made men, as they believe their success is due to their own special form of greatness, rather than because in their case talent transected with chance and opportunity.

Then we have the always comprehensive Corey Wallace on the confusion Hashimoto has whipped up in the political world, particularly the cosy little corner of the world inhabited by the Liberal Democratic Party. (Link 2)

The part of Hashimoto's Ishin no kai's declaration that has me shaking in my boots (and I am wearing boots) is the proposal for direct elections of prime ministers. (J) Such a proposal faces the same soaring constitutional hurdles as the other major radical reform: the abolition of the House of Councillors. Unlike the abolition, which has no chance of passing as the House of Councillors would have to vote itself out of existence -- a decidedly unlikely event -- a move toward a direct election of prime ministers could gather up enough support to pass through both Houses of the Diet and then received the people's imprimatur in a national referendum.

Nothing would guarantee gridlock in the Diet or, paradoxically, tyranny than to have a popularly elected prime minister. Floating Japanese voters do not vote for something, they vote against the status quo, often in the absence of logical examination of the content of a person's political program (Japanese undecided voters are, of course, far from unique in possessing this trait). Japan lacks the formal institutional brakes or political and social structures necessary to channel the energies of a leader voted into office for negative reasons into positive, rather than merely populist, directions.


Sigma1 said...

I was hoping someone had persuaded him out of the loony idea re: direct election for PM. I see what he is going for but it just doesn't fit.

Jan Moren said...

I don't think many people are bothered by his background as such; if anything, there seems to be some muted admiration about having pulled himself up in this way (another contrast to many establishment politicians). What I have occasionally heard, on the other hand, is concern that family ties with organized crime may be close enough that he could be pressured by them.

MTC said...

Herr Morén -

On the flip side, have connections to a gumi could reduce worries about blackmail, delays in land acquisition, protest violence, sound trucks and the like.

Jan Moren said...

The sound trucks have come out in noisy support of our new mayor already; and they had the strategic sense to wait until right after the election. Seems even they are at least bright enough to understand their support is not a net positive.

panÓptiko said...

Sorry but I cannot grasp what is the loony part of the idea, neither what "the formal institutional brakes or political and social structures" are. Any link/thoughts you can share?


Kinny Riddle said...

OK, this idea of a directly-elected PM has got my inner-geek to think up some wild ideas.

Israel seems to be the only other country with a parliamentary system that has experimented with a directly-elected PM.

I think the Israel experiment failed mainly due to the proportional system used to elect Israel's Knesset, that created a mish-mash of microparties which the popularly elected PM has no control over.

So if Hashimoto wishes to go ahead with this reform, he would want to look into reforming the electoral method for both houses of Diet as well.

Ideally, have all elections on fixed terms, so as to reduce chances of twisted Diets. And have elections of both houses (if Upper House isn't abolished) on the same day for good measure.

I would then suggest adopting the model for how the president of Indonesia is elected, and have the combined House elections held BEFORE the election of PM, where candidates must be nominated by a party or coalition that won at least 25% of the popular vote in the combined House elections.

This further reduces the outcome of an elected PM not being able to control the Diet, as the winning candidate would have the confidence of at least 1 large party and 1-2 smaller parties.

What do you guys think?

Anonymous said...

Would love to get your thoughts on this:

(there are 3 parts to the article)

Seems like some major reaching to me, although I'm not entirely sure how legit Shukan Jitsuwa is to be honest.