Friday, September 14, 2007

"Perhaps not"

Fukuda Yasuo was asked whether he would visit Yasukuni Shrine as prime minister. His answer: "Perhaps not."

It's certainly better than committing to visit, and considering that China was content with Mr. Abe's "neither confirm nor deny" approach to the Yasukuni problem, undoubtedly Beijing is preparing a little party to celebrate if and when Mr. Fukuda is chosen as the next LDP president.

It is still too early to coronate Mr. Fukuda, but there are few obstacles standing in his way. A potential obstacle is the decision by thirty-seven prefectural chapters to hold elections among party members to choose which candidate will receive the chapter's votes (a kind of electoral college system). This means, of course, that Mr. Aso is not guaranteed to receive the support for twelve prefectural chapters. But it also raises the possibility of an awkward scenario. What if Mr. Aso were to somehow win a resounding victory in the vote among the prefectural chapters? While it seems that such a victory would be mathematically insufficient to best Mr. Fukuda, it would create an awkward situation whereby the parliamentary party would be seen as arrogantly dismissing the interests of the regional party members — who already feel slighted and disaffected, as the Upper House election made clear. What would that mean for Mr. Fukuda's efforts to unite a broken party? How would Mr. Aso react?

If Mr. Fukuda talks too frequently and enthusiastically about structural reform — as much as it pleases some of us, myself included — this scenario could become that much more plausible.

Then again, voters could fall into line behind the consensus forged in Tokyo behind Mr. Fukuda's candidacy.

I cannot speak to the probability of these scenarios, but I think it's worthwhile to consider the possibility that the prefectural chapters could throw a spanner into the works.


MTC said...

Observer -

You will have to check with Okumura-san on this one...but given Fukuda Yasuo's history of caustic sarcasm, I believe, "Sanpai suru koto wa osoroku nai to omou." means "You're kidding when you're asking me whether or not I going to Yasukuni, right?"

Japan Observer said...

I will defer to your judgment on this — Asahi doesn't exactly convey sarcasm in its reporting.

Break out the champagne.

Bryce said...

I'm with MTC on this one. And the Asahi was actually quite clear. Their headline was "福田氏「靖国参拝せず」、テレビ番組で語る".

In any case, it is well known (or well rumoured?) that Fukuda opposes prime ministerial visits to Yasukuni. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it was the primary reason that he resigned from Koizumi's Cabinet. It may also be a reason why some of the Koizumi Kids (a much cooler name than "Koizumi Children") oppose his selection.

Japan Observer said...

Yeah, the headline is a lot clearer than the body copy.

Anyway, I thought he ultimately resigned because of the pensions non-payment scandal.

Presumably some of the kids oppose Fukuda because of Mr. K's feud with him?

Jun Okumura said...

Tentatively agree with MTC, though I'd have to actually watch Mr. Fukuda say it to be sure. He may have been merely softening the impact of his words on diehard LDP Yusukunians. But sarcasm does runs in the Fukuda family.

In any case, from the text alone, he can plausibly deny that he was being sarcastic, where his father would have left little doubt one way or the other.


Up to 37 now? That's impressive. It'll be interesting to see how they turn out. I don't think Mr. Aso is playing it as well as he could. (He comes across as being a little shrill on the matter of the factions colluding; let surrogates do the smear job and hope the media picks up on it, I say. Also, stop Kunio Hatoyama from acting like a one-man cheerleaders squad. Hatoyama the Younger is obviously a very nice human being, but still...) I also think that an Aso victory will be destructive for the LDP, and so local leaders directly and indirectly aligned with the Fukuda candidacy will work to convince the rank and file to fall in line. Still, we have a situation where you could still quote odds.

James said...

Also Fukuda Yasuo was the main force pushing for construction of a new, non-religious war memorial (from memory, a 無宗教国立追悼施設).
For example: