Look at him being awesome in Mongolia:
Best Prime Minister ever? You bet. Too bad he’ll be checking out next month.
What I really liked about Koizumi was his knack for political spectacle – you may remember his recent Elvis impersonation. We’ve spent a lot of time looking at Koizumi’s sheer presence on camera. He’ll be remembered in the US for his horrible karaoke at Graceland, but in Japan he is likely to go down as Japan’s biggest reformer since MacArthur.
Now, R. Taggart Murphy at the New Left Review points out that Koizumi did precious little to shake up Japan’s real power structure – unchecked and all-powerful bureaucrats who are loyal lapdogs of the US because Japan’s immense dollar holdings leave them with few options. I can’t offer a complete response to the article, but he dismisses Koizumi’s reform drive as a “convincing act,” a claim that’s irritating as someone who looks at some of the trees among the forest of Japan’s government.
I mean, he’s basically right. Of course any responsible Japanese politician isn’t going to commit political suicide by disrupting the precarious world financial system (Taggart admits that elsehwere in the paper), and any policy pursued by the PM’s office is going to be riddled with concessions to the “real power holders” – hence the directionless postal privatization policy and failure to get Japanese bond issuances down under 30 trillion yen, as well as leaving many other unanswered questions. And he makes a good point – that the push for so-called “neoliberal” economic policies that has been going on since the 90s were often nothing but smoke and mirrors hiding more cynical policy objectives.
But at least in terms of political reform, Koizumi did a lot – the dismantling of the LDP’s faction system (as seen in the rush to support Abe), the rise of the CEFP style of policy making, and the fruition of Japan’s new electoral system, all Koizumi-led developments. These are not merely “imported suits of clothes” as he puts it but (late) responses to demands from the public to take power away from the bureaucrats, who have lost significant public trust in the last decade or so.
But it looks like Japan’s next PM, Shinzo Abe, in addition to offering very little on policy issues (reports on his new book and promotional campaign seem pretty wishy washy – I mean, 2nd chances for failed business owners?!). And it’s certain that he will offer nothing even remotely closely resembling Koizumi’s early classic bike safety display in full, shiny reflective business attire.
I mean, just look at this guy (on the left of course):
As much as I’d like to know what this picture is all about (Chinese source!), it’s clear enough that this man is zombie Jon Arbuckle – boring, lame, and flesh-eating. He’s typical LDP blah and Japan needs none of it.
Koizumi, you’ll be sorely missed. I’ll be crying as I clutch my lion keychain (get them at the LDP HQ while they’re hot!) during Abe’s swearing in.