Friday, October 19, 2012

Pawn Sacrifice

Cut your losses. If you must lose material, lose as little as possible.

- Bruce Pandolfini, "The 64 Commandments of Chess"

The time has come for us to say, "Sayonara"...

- Freddy Morgan and Yoshida Hasegawa*, "The Japanese Farewell Song"
Yesterday, Chairman of the House of Councillors Oversight Committee (kessan iinkai) Yamamoto Junzo summoned Minister of Law** Tanaka Keishu to appear in his chamber to answer questions from the Liberal Democratic Party's Kumagaya Yutaka.

Tanaka asked to be excused, citing official duties -- which included unidentified "events pertaining to the courts" and a meeting with the German Ambassador.

"Fine," said Yamamoto, "we will postpone your answering Kumagaya's questions to the evening."

Which Yamamoto did.

Tanaka never showed up.

Tanaka Keishu has been a political vagabond, successfully serving three consecutive terms in the Kanagawa Prefectural Assembly before diving into national politics. His Diet career proceeded in fits and starts, in for a while only to be ousted again, running under the banner of four different parties along the way. He landed in the DPJ in 1998 when his Democratic Socialist Party (Minshato) accepted absorption into the larger party. In the 2005 election debacle for the DPJ, Tanaka lost his district seat, one to be revived as a zombie from the party list.

In 29 years in national politics, Tanaka has managed to eke out six elections to the Diet, the basic minimum standard for mediocre politicians to receive a ministerial posting. Since he is is 74 years of age and a repeated electoral loser, he looks to have been the obligatory pity appointee in the October 1 Cabinet reshuffle.

What a mistake that has turned out to be.

It is not as if Tanaka's ethics problems are anything new: his career has been dogged by scandal. He was one of the Diet members alleged to have profited from stock sales in the Recruit Scandal, rumors which led to his losing his seat in the 1990. Immediately after being appointed, it discovered that his political support group had received donations from a Taiwanese restaurateur. Tanaka was criticized for not resigning his ministerial post as the ultra-slick and ambitious Maehara Seiji had in March 2011 after he was discovered to have received a very minor amount in donations from a foreign national friend.

The revelations in the scandal weeklies that blew everyone's mind were that Tanaka 30 years ago served as the official go-between in a yakuza wedding and havd given a speech at a yakuza function around the same time.

Considering the political hay the opposition would make of such revelations, which Tanaka has confirmed as being true, should have meant the end of his career as the nation's highest ranking administrator of the law.

However, mysteriously, he neither resigned not did the prime minister ask for his resignation. He has lingered on, an open sore in the Cabinet, going through the motions of Law Minister.

If yesterday's mysterious defiance of a committee summons is not the result of illness or a fluke of scheduling, Tanaka's removal from office is imminent. Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko will be meeting with LDP president Abe Shinzo and New Komeito leader Yamaguchi Natsuo today in the first private get-together of the major party heads since Abe's, Noda's and Yamaguchi's reelections. The two meetings this week between secretaries-general of the three parties have been acrimonious, with the LDP and the New Komeito demanding a fixed date for a House of Representative election and the DPJ dodging the issue. (For my discussion of the impossibility the DPJ to honor the LDP's and New Komeito's demands, click here.

Nothing would help set an intial mood of conviviality at today's meeting than Tanaka's head on a platter.

Will Tanaka go quietly or will Noda have to fire him? Today is Friday, the day of the second of the Cabinet's bi-weekly meetings. The PM may let Tanaka sit in on the meeting, for appearance's sake. He will likely also be patient, allowing Tanaka the time to do the decent and smart thing and resign, then call a press conference to announce his resignation. However, if Tanaka refuses to resign -- a not unlikely outcome given his lack of a sense of decency so far in his political life -- Noda will be forced to fire him, with Noda giving the press conference before the trilateral meeting.

We shall see how this all this plays out.

* One person? Two? Imaginary? No one knows.

** The Japanese name is Homusho. If the Ministry is in anyway interested in administering justice rather than the law, one has to ask, "Since when?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He's gone: