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The Hatoyama administration’s significance

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KOBE – Last Wednesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe implemented a long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle. Personnel matters are not Abe’s forte; worse, he tends to be particularly beholden to friends and factions. I am highly pleased with some appointments but disappointed with others.

In any case, these movements have tended to overshadow an important anniversary in Japan this week. The Yukio Hatoyama administration, the first of three consecutive Democratic Party of Japan-led governments, began 10 years ago on Sept. 16, 2009.

Readers will remember that earlier this year in February, Abe called the three years of the DPJ administration “a nightmare” at a Liberal Democratic Party gathering. But what he neglected to say is that it was the failures and scandals of the repeatedly short administrations of him and his LDP successors that brought about the overwhelming DPJ victory in the August 2009 general election.

As a political scientist specializing in Japanese political and diplomatic history, I recall, back at the time of the September 2005 general election in which the LDP led by Junichiro Koizumi won 296 seats, pointing out to anyone who would listen that the LDP would likely lose the next time around. This was counterintuitive for most people, as the LDP had gained almost 60 seats at the expense of the DPJ.

My main — but not only — reason for thinking this was that no one in the LDP had the same level of popularity as Koizumi, a true populist, and the LDP had only his coattails when he stepped down after being in office for so long, which he did in September 2006. Of course, this was a highly controversial opinion, especially in Washington, which likes to pride itself on being able to manage its relationship with Tokyo.

Such a prediction became clearer when the LDP lost control of the Upper House as a result of its defeat in the July 2007........

© The Japan Times