Sunday, August 19, 2007

Beautiful no more

Since election night, there has been a conspicuous absence from the pronouncements of the Abe government: we no longer hear Mr. Abe speaking of building a "beautiful country."

Mainichi suggests that the Abe camp has been reflecting on the meaning of the slogan, despite Abe's assertion that he doesn't think the election results repudiated his "course of reform." Seko Hiroshige, Abe's media advisor, is responsible for the "Building a beautiful country project," and he has suggested that the government think about how to build a beautiful country that pays mind to the concerns of Japanese citizens — a nod, as Mainichi notes, in the direction of the DPJ's "lifestyle is number one" campaign slogan.

At the time of the Abe Cabinet's inauguration, the "beautiful country" slogan was merely baffling and something of a joke; as the cabinet's popularity has tanked, the joke has become less and less funny and more a symbol of the extent to which the government was totally out of touch with the Japanese people and even members of the LDP. In short, with the electoral defeat and the coming cabinet reshuffle, the slogan should be heading to ignominious retirement. And yet it's not: the project is, according to Mainichi, considering some 3500 reform proposals that will be announced around the same time as the reshuffle.

Perhaps the new cabinet will be less tolerant of governing by vague slogans and will force the prime minister to reconfigure how he presents his agenda to the public. There are, however, few signs as of yet that Mr. Abe is going to defer to the judgment of the LDP elders. Yomiuri today speculates on some possibilities for the new cabinet, but there seems to be nothing definite. Some names mentioned by Yomiuri are former Foreign Minister Machimura Nobutaka, LDP policy chief (and Abe ally) Nakagawa Shoichi, Niwa/Koga faction chief Niwa Yuuya, and former Kokutai chairman Ooshima Tadamori (possibly to return to the same post), as well as Nikai Toshihiro.

There are fewer hints as to who will take which portfolio. There is a suggestion that Machimura will be the chief cabinet secretary — Shiozaki seems to have little chance of survival — because "the only true support for the prime minister is from people in the Machimura faction." Nakagawa, meanwhile, will likely take an economic portfolio (or the MAFF portfolio, which his late father held) in the hope of not weakening the impression that it is Mr. Abe's cabinet.

With a week remaining, no one should anticipate — in case anyone did — that the impending reshuffle will be the key to giving the Abe cabinet some traction, because it seems that Mr. Abe will continue to rely on those who support him unquestioningly and reject those LDP members who have criticized his government, especially since the election.

And as for those 3500 proposals under consideration? There is no reason to expect that Mr. Abe is prepared to abandon the "no reform without growth" formula that has characterized his government since day one.

2 comments:

Bryce said...

You actually ever read "Utsukushii kuni e". It was a bunch of dross. I burst out laughing a bunch of times, especially when Abe started using "Million Dollar Baby" to "explain" his variant of nationalism.

Japan Observer said...

Yeah, I read it last month (and wrote about it).

He's definitely up to speed on his movies (and little else).