|Article added on
August 1, 2001
The Upper House election
of July 2001
total seats 2001
total seats 1998
During the election campaign,
the Minshuto party leaders Yukio Hatoyama and
Naoto Kan criticized Koizumi's economic reform plan as being on the
detriment of social welfare. This
electoral strategy failed - a large portion of Japanese voters seem to be ready for
reform and are prepared to accept some harsh measures; the governing tripartite coalition
of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Komeito and the New Conservative
Party (NKP) won 78 of 121 seats on ballot, increasing their
total number of Upper House seats from 137 to 139. However, the Koizumi
effect was not as important as expected. This is also reflected in the third
lowest postwar Upper House election voter turnout: 56.4%. The perverse thing
about the election is that Koizumi helped a lot of conservative LDP members
who oppose his reform plans to regain their seats. However, many Japanese
have enough of the country's excessive conformism. The choice of Koizumi as
Prime Minister might be the beginning of paradigm change.
Biography of Junichiro Koizumi
On April 24, 2001, Junichiro Koizumi was
elected as the 20th President of the LDP, gaining
298 of 487 votes, with former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto receiving 155
Taro Aso, Minister of State for economic and fiscal policy, winning 31 votes.
3 votes for Shizuka Komei were invalidated when
he withdrew. As usual for the LDP, this meant that Koizumi also became Japan's
Junichiro Koizumi was born in 1942
in Yokosuka in the Kanagawa Prefecture. He
is a third-generation politician. His grandfather and father also occupied
Koizumi's grandfather, Matajiro, was a carpenter before becoming a politician.
He was elected as a lawmaker from
Minseito (People's Government Party) and became a minister in two prewar cabinets.
Koizumi's father, Junya, served as Director General of the Defense Agency in the
Hayato Ikeda during the 1960s.
In 1967, Koizumi graduated from the Faculty of
Economics at Keio University. In the late 1960s, he studied at the University of London.
Koizumi is said to have no difficulty
communicating in English. In December 1969, after the death of his
father, he returned to Japan and run unsuccessfully in a House of Representatives
election. In 1970, he became a secretary to former Prime Minister Takeo
Fukuda, then a member of the House of Representatives.
December 1972 in his second attempt, Koizumi was elected to the Lower
House. Not surprisingly, he became a member of the Fukuda faction in the
LDP. In 1978, Koizumi married the granddaughter of a pharmaceutical
company founder. She was 14 years younger. They had a big political
wedding with 2500 guests at the Tokyo Prince Hotel. However, in 1982,
they divorced when she was pregnant with their third child - their three
sons are today 18, 19 and 22. Koizumi is one of
the very few politicians to
have divorced and remained single. He raised two of his sons as a single
In December 1988, Koizumi
became Health and Welfare Minister in Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita's reshuffled
In June of the following year, Koizumi was reappointed
Health and Welfare Minister by new Prime Minister Sosuke Uno.
January 1991, Koizumi formed the so-called
with LDP lawmakers Koichi Kato and Taku Yamasaki. In October of the same
year, the new Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu
was forced to resign following pressures from three factions led by Michio
Watanabe, Kiichi Miyazawa and Hiroshi Mitsuzuka on initiative of
the YKK trio.
1992, Koizumi became Minister of Postal and Telecommunication Services
under Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa. In
July 1993, the LDP failed to win a majority
in the Lower House election. Koizumi openly told Miyazawa to resign and resigned himself
from his ministerial post the next day. In
August 1993, the LDP was forced into the
opposition as a coalition government under
Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa took over.
May 1994, Koizumi launched a Diet group called
Shinseiki (New Century) led by the YKK trio with younger parliamentary members
who belong to different LDP factions.
September 1995, the maverick Koizumi ran
in the LDP presidential
race for the first time - already with a reform policy foreseeing the privatizing of postal and savings
businesses. However, he only won a tiny support and
Ryutaro Hashimoto became Japan's new Prime
1996, Koizumi announced a proposal for
privatization of postal services at a meeting of a study group launched
with Hosokawa and Shusei Tanaka, director general of the Economic Planning
Agency and a member of New Party Sakigake. In
November 1996, Koizumi became Health and Welfare
Minister in Hashimoto's second cabinet and remained there until 1998.
July 1998, as Hashimoto stepped down,
Koizumi ran in the LDP
presidential election again - and lost again, this time against Keizo Obuchi,
coming last, also behind Kajiyama.
April 2000, Prime Minister Obuchi fell into a coma and
replaced by Yoshiro Mori. A year later,
Koizumi ran for the third time in the LDP presidential race - and was elected as the LDP's 20th
president. His victory was made possible because it was not up to the
party's factions to decide behind closed doors who would be the new LDP
president. Instead the party's 47 local chapters each had three votes. In
addition to 141 votes came the votes of the 346 LDP parliamentary members. Koizumi won 123 of
the local votes, whereas among LDP lawmakers he only got a tiny majority of
175 out of 346 votes. As Prime Minister, he has of course primarily to deal
with the LDP Diet members.
growing discontent on a public and party basis with the LDP-led government and
with a Prime Minister, Mori, who only had a one-digit approval rate. For a decade, the Japanese economy
has been in a bad shape and the people seem to be ready for real change.
Furthermore, many LDP members at the party's bases as well
as parliamentary members were looking for a better party image in
order to avoid a disaster at the Upper House Parliamentary elections of
for his hairstyle and enjoys a cult status similar to that of a rock star - by the way,
he is a rock music fan. In March, he said: "People call me a
but I am a man of reform". After his election in April, Koizumi had a
sensationally positive approval rate, the highest ever for a Kyodo
News telephone poll conducted immediately after the formation
of a new cabinet. And until today, his numbers remain high.
considered a maverick
although he has served 10 terms as a member of the House of
Representatives. His mentor was the late Prime Minister
Takeo Fukuda, an LDP heavyweight who opposed Prime Minister
Kakuei Tanaka during a power struggle. The irony is that Koizumi appointed Tanaka's
daughter as his Minister of Foreign Affairs. They share a belief in the
necessity of economic and
Koizumi pushes for reforms
After his election as Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi
stressed the need for "structural
reforms without sanctuaries", including economic,
fisca, administrative, social and political reforms. Once more, Koizumi
presented his favorite plan to privatize the post office
which helps to deliver the
LDP’s organized rural vote through the influence of the chiefs
of local post offices and their families. The postal-savings system
is also an important source of cheap funding for the government which, in turn,
helps the construction industry, another important section of the LDP's clientele.
announced that he would take steps to
limit waste, promote recycling and prevent illegal dumping. But at the
negotiations regarding the Kyoto protocol, Japan was not very cooperative and asked for
further concessions before it agreed to sign it.
Koizumi stressed the importance
of maintaining and strengthening Japan's good relationship with the Republic of Korea
and of ensuring the success of next year's joint hosting of the World Cup
Soccer tournament. But there is presently a scandal about new high school history
textbooks which ignore Japan's past crimes against Koreans and Chinese.
Furthermore, Koizumi announced his intent to travel to the Yasukuni
shrine in Tokyo on August 15, the day of the Japanese capitulation in World
War II, honoring Japan's war dead. Since war criminals are buried there too,
South Korea and China oppose the visit.
Koizumi's confirms his cabinet of April 2001
(* the seven ministers appointed to
the same post as in the previous Mori cabinet)
- Foreign Affairs: Makiko
- Finance: Masajuro
- Justice: Mayumi
- Economy, Trade and Industry:
- Defense: Gen Nakatani
- Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology: Atsuko
- Health, Labor and Welfare:
- Environment: Yoriko
Forestry and Fisheries: Tsutomo Takebe
- Land, Infrastructure
and Transport: Chikage Ogi*
- Public Management, Home Affairs, Post and Telecommunications: Toranosuke
- Chief Cabinet
Secretary: Yasuo Fukuda*
- National Public
Safety Commission: Jin Murai
- State Minister for
Financial affairs: Hakuo Yanagisawa*
- State Minister for
Administrative and regulatory reforms: Nobuteru Ishihara
- State Minister for
Economic, Fiscal and IT policy: Heizo Takenaka
- State Minister for
Okinawa and Affairs related to Northern Territory, Council for Science and
Technology Policy: Koji Omi
Koizumi is Japan's first bachelor to ascend
to the post of Prime Minister since Shigeru Yoshida left in the 1950s. The
LDP president Koizumi was elected Japan's 56th Prime Minister. The cabinet
includes five women and three non-politicians, something unprecedented in
postwar Japan. Koizumi
retained seven ministers from the previous administration. However, Koizumi
strongest backers to the key portfolios of the foreign and finance ministries
- Makiko Tanaka and Masajuro Shiokawa. After the Upper
House election of July 2001, Koizumi confirmed all members of his cabinet.
Masajuro Shiokawa has served 11 terms in the
Japanese Diet and is now a cabinet member under a sixth prime minister.
He was chief cabinet secretary under the
late Takeo Fukuda, transport minister under Zenko Suzuki, education
minister in the cabinet of Yasuhiro Nakasone, chief cabinet
secretary under the late Sousuke Uno and home affairs minister under Kiichi Miyazawa.
Shiokawa lost in the October 1996 Lower
House election, but he made a comeback in 2000 at the age of 78. Koizumi appointed
him as finance minister.
Shiokawa served as Koizumi's campaign chief during the LDP leadership race.
He belongs to the Mori faction within the LDP.
Tanaka, 57 is, like Koizumi, considered a maverick within the LDP. She is
not affiliated with any party faction. Her father, the late Kakuei Tanaka,
was a former prime minister and one of the most powerful LDP leaders ever. He normalized
diplomatic ties between Japan and China in the 1970s. He was forced out of office and disgraced by a bribery scandal in
Makiko Tanaka studied at a high school in
Philadelphia, USA. She returned to Japan to graduate at Waseda University.
She joined a
theatrical company with the intention to become an actress. Her father
heavily opposed her plan and, therefore, she renounced it. In 1985, her
father suffered a stroke and she devoted herself to caring for him. Makiko
has served three terms in the
Diet. Her popularity helped her husband,
Naoki Tanaka, an LDP Upper House member, to make a Diet comeback after
being beaten when he had served as a Lower House member for three terms. Makiko Tanaka
had supported Koizumi in the LDP presidential race. She has become Japan's first female
Foreign Minister. Because of her education at an American high
school, she is the first Japanese Foreign Minister to be fluent in English.
Koizumi appointed Heizo
Takenaka, a professor of economics at Keio University, as Minister for Economic,
Fiscal and IT policy. Takenaka is another advocate of economic
structural reform within the cabinet. He is not affiliated with any party.
Koizumi confirmed Hakuo
Yanagisawa, 65, as State Minister of Financial affairs. Yanagisawa is
considered a man who seriously wants to reform the banking and financial
sector which still carries a lot of bad loans with it.
Minister of Defense, Koizumi chose Gen Nakatani, 43, whose grandfather was
a Lower House member. Gen Nakatani is a member of the Kato faction within
the LDP. Since 1990, he served four terms in the Lower House. He is a National Defense Academy graduate who
worked as a Ground Self-Defense Force officer before entering politics. He
served as parliamentary vice minister for the National Land Agency, the
Telecommunications Ministry and the Home Affairs Ministry and was a member
of the Diet and LDP defense and security (U.S.-Japanese alliance) committees.
This is his first cabinet appointment.
State Secretary in charge of administrative and regulatory reforms,
Koizumi chose in April Nobuteru Ishihara, 44. He is a former television
journalist and the son of Shintaro
Ishihara, the nationalist governor of Tokyo. This is his first cabinet
post. Chikara Sakaguchi of New
Komeito was already Minister of health, labor and welfare under Mori.
Koizumi confirmed him in this position.
The largest LDP faction led by
former Prime Minister Hashimoto, who lost the presidential race to
Koizumi, had four posts in the previous Mori cabinet, but only two in
the Koizumi cabinet. The second-largest faction, led by former Prime
Minister Mori, occupies three cabinet posts; Koizumi used to be among its
The remaining factions - except the one led by Yohei Kono which got none -
where given one post each.
The LDP's partners in the tripartite coalition,
New Komeito and the New Conservative Party, were given one cabinet post each, as was the
case under Mori.
Koizumi is not as isolated as it seems to
some foreign observers since his political ally of the 1991-formed YKK
trio - comprising Yamasaki, Kato and
Koizumi - is secretary general of the LDP, holding the most important party
post. Yamasaki graduated from Waseda University. In 1972, he won his first
seat in the House of Representatives. He served as Defense Agency director general,
Construction Minister and LDP policy research council chairman. He is a
renowned specialist in security policy but lacks the necessary communication
skills to transport his ideas effectively.
The LDP General Council Chairman Mitsuo Horiuchi, 71,
is an outspoken advocate of financial reform of public corporations. While
serving as International Trade and Industry minister in the Hashimoto cabinet,
he ordered the investigation of financial transactions
involving the Japan National Oil Corporation which revealed
that the public corporation was beset by massive non-performing loans.
Koizumi confirmed Yutaka Takeyama and Mikio Aoki as the two top
executives of the Upper House caucus. Both are from the largest LDP faction, led by
Hashimoto, which is opposed to Koizumi's reform plans. No member of the Hashimoto faction
was chosen for the top three party posts in the Lower House.
Important reforms are needed more than ever
since Japan's GDP shrunk by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2001 and no
improvement is in sight. Japan's debt reached an incredible 130% of GDP
or 660 trillion yen by March.
Takashi Imai, the head of the Japanese
Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren), urged Koizumi to move
quickly towards "structural reforms". Hiroshi Okuda, the
chairman of the Japan Federation of Employers' Associations (Nikkeiren),
made a similar statement. Therefore, substantial reforms may be
However, a large number of LDP Diet
members still opposes Koizumi's reform policy. The
Buddhist-backed New Komeito Party and the small New Conservative Party are
also not natural allies of Koizumi's reform agenda. But the Prime Minister
has one important "argument" on his side: he can dissolve the
parliament and call for new elections if lawmakers try to obstruct his
plans. During his electoral campaign, Koizumi announced that he is
determined to do so if necessary. We will soon find out whether Koizumi is
ready to go the way of "blood, sweat and tears". At the same
time, let's not forget that Japan still has a higher income per capita, a lower crime rate, a healthier
population with a longer life expectancy, better mass transportation,
private savings more than twice as high as the country's GDP and more
equitable income distribution than most other industrial nations -
just to name a few positive elements.
The Logic of Japanese Politics by Gerald L. Curtis.
Hardcover, Columbia Univ Press, 1999, 336 p. Get it from Amazon.com,
The Enigma of Japanese Power by Karel Van Wolferen.
Paperback, Vintage Books, 1990 Reprint edition, 504 p. Get it from
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