The blame game
President Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda have several things in common.
One is that they entered politics comparatively late, starting their careers as businessmen before becoming politicians in their early 50s. They also have a less honorable commonality. Their approval ratings are both at rock bottom. Fukuda’s rating, which hit 60 percent during his inauguration last September, has fallen to 19 percent, according to a survey by Asahi Shimbun. This is no better than President Lee’s.
In Japan, where the cabinet is urged to resign when their rating is below 30 percent, it is unusual for them to be hanging on.
Fukuda made a mistake by enforcing the gasoline tax reform law and is accused of inciting oil price rises, which are already soaring. The reforms were to provide funds for road construction, so it was logical to levy a tax on automobile drivers, the road users, but it has obviously brought the approval rating down.
There is one seemingly insurmountable problem for Fukuda. It is the “twisted” Diet he inherited from his predecessor Shinzo Abe.
The majority of the parliament is the Liberal Democratic Party, the governing party. However, the House of Councilors is ruled by the minority party. This is because the Abe government handed over the majority in last year’s July election. The Democrats can easily expect that resolutions that have been passed in the House of Representatives will be vetoed in the House of Councillors. An example is refusing to agree to the nomination of the Bank of Japan vice-president four times. Unless the governing and the opposing parties establish cooperative relations, the Japanese government’s demise is inevitable.
Coincidentally, the leader of the Democratic Party is Ichiro Ozawa, the crown prince of former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka. Yasuo Fukuda’s father Takeo Fukuda fought a fierce power struggle with Tanaka to become prime minister but lost.
Later, the Fukuda faction kept losing to the Tanaka faction until the 1990s causing resentment for 30 years.
Since two opposing parties preside over two houses separately, there is no way politics in Japan will go smoothly.
Although Fukuda could well feel victimized, not a single comment was made blaming his predecessor, who handed over such an unbearable situation.
The Lee Myung-bak administration could feel resentful of the Roh Moo-hyun administration for not resolving the U.S. beef import issue before leaving office. Even so, accusing their predecessors of “not washing the dishes” is ungainly.
It is impossible for Lee to escape his responsibility by blaming his predecessor’s negligence. Everybody knows that he didn’t mention U.S. beef before the election and hurriedly made a decision to resume imports before his U.S. trip
*The writer is a deputy political editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Yeh Young-june [firstname.lastname@example.org]