August 11, 2005


Koizumi: Crazy like a fox: Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has two entrenched goals: to abolish the debilitating political factions within his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, and to reform the giant postal system. The two are inextricably linked, and by calling snap elections, Koizumi can yet realize both ambitions. (Darrel Whitten, 8/12/05, Asia Times)

Not only did Koizumi dissolve the Lower House, he also withdrew LDP party support in the upcoming elections for the 37 LDP politicians who voted against his bills. Without formal LDP support, these candidates will have to run as independents, cannot advertise their campaigns in the same manner as party-backed candidates, and cannot use party funds in their campaigns. In effect, Koizumi has used the defeat of the postal liberalization bills to exorcise his most vocal opponents in the LDP.

Is Koizumi crazy, or just crazy like a fox? He is extremely unusual as a Japanese politician and particularly as one belonging to the LDP. He actually means what he says and has consistently attempted to implement the promises he made when elected. [...]

In 1992, Koizumi was appointed minister of posts and telecommunications in the Kiichi Miyazawa cabinet. This was like asking the fox to guard the hen house. In addition to promoting his own unique philosophy for postal system privatization, he continued to battle with career bureaucrats in the postal system over issues such as his rejection of a budget proposal by the ministry to raise the minimum amount of non-taxable, small-lot savings accounts for senior citizens.

But Koizumi's "top-down" style and passion to implement further reforms has increasingly brought him to loggerheads with aging influence peddlers within the LDP. That is because the LDP is essentially a coalition of eight "policy groups" or factions.

These factions are aligned with key ministries and public programs in a number of areas, including the Doro Zoku (Japan highway), Zeisei Zoku (value added tax), Yusei Zoku (postal system), Norin Zoku (agricultural ministry), Shoko Zoku (industry policy), Ginko Zoku (previously finance ministry) and the Kosei Zoku (welfare ministry family). Traditionally, policy within the LDP has been determined by consensus and compromise among the LDP factions, with the prime minister's post being passed around by the respective factions and the cabinet essentially rubber-stamping LDP policy initiatives. The strength of each faction is determined by the number of members it commands, which in turn is largely determined by the amount of money the faction can attract and use in getting its members elected.

Koizumi's grand aim from the beginning has been to abolish the political factions within the LDP and eliminate the sleaze and under-the-table dealings that have driven Japan's parliamentary system. His reorganizations within Japan's government were aimed at shifting the policy initiative to the cabinet from the LDP. [...]

The elimination of factionalism in the LDP is key in diverting the money flow from a few influential LDP politicians, the bureaucrats and public corporations into the private sector. In effect, privatizing government-owned businesses, such as the Japan Highway Public Corp and the postal system, entails eliminating factionalism within the LDP and defeating the "old guard" politicians whose political fortunes have been built on the pork-barreling from these enterprises.

There is a vast pool of government-controlled funds in the postal system. In effect, Koizumi's postal reform bills attack the heart of the Zoku system established by former prime minister and influential LDP member Kakuei Tanaka and his heirs. Koizumi and his supporters believe the traditional system is at the center of Japan's political sclerosis.'s about eggs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 11, 2005 12:38 PM

"about eggs"

One man can only do so much. But if there is a need for volunteers, I'll be glad to help out.

Posted by: h-man at August 11, 2005 12:53 PM

Do you believe that if Japan had robust population growth, that their government would be more inclined to reform ?

What about America ?
We have robust population growth, but we still have pork-barrel politics.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 11, 2005 2:41 PM
"Is Koizumi crazy, or just crazy like a fox? He is extremely unusual as a Japanese politician and particularly as one belonging to the LDP. He actually means what he says and has consistently attempted to implement the promises he made when elected."

Sounds like W, huh?

Posted by: Mike Beversluis at August 11, 2005 2:48 PM


Yes. If they had a future they'd be concerned about it.

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2005 3:09 PM

As I've said before, don't count Koizumi out. The Japanese are more likely to copy the U.S. than France.

Of course, he may win the election and get kicked out of the party. But that is the parliamentary system for you.

Bring back the emperor.

Posted by: Randall Voth at August 12, 2005 6:44 AM
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