Sunday, July 21, 2024

Monday Asia Events July 22, 2024

5:30am (EDT), 6:30pm (JST), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Yokosuka Council on Asia Pacific Studies (YCAPS). Speaker: Konstantin von Eggert, MBE, Russian affairs analyst, Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster.

SCHRIEVER SPACEPOWER SERIES: MAJ GEN TIMOTHY J. SEJBA, COMMANDER, SPACE TRAINING AND READINESS COMMAND. 7/22, 9:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Mitchell Institute. Speaker: Maj. Gen. Timothy J. Sejba, Commander, Space Training and Readiness Command, United States Space Force.

, 9:00-10:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Jude Blanchette, Freeman Chair in China Studies, CSIS; Bonny Lin, Director, China Power Project, Senior Fellow, Asian Security, CSIS; Scott Kennedy, Senior Adviser, Trustee Chair, Chinese Business and Economics, CSIS; Daniel H. Rosen, Co-Founder, Rhodium Group; Lingling Wei, Chief China Correspondent, Wall Street Journal.

WHAT WE LEARNED FROM THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION. 7/22, 10:00-11:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Brookings. Speakers: Elaine Kamarck, Founding Director, Center for Effective Public Management, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings; E.J. Dionne, Jr., W. Averell Harriman Chair, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings; Henry Olsen, Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center; A.B. Stoddard, Columnist, The Bulwark.

UNPACKING IRAN’S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS: DRIVERS AND IMPLICATIONS. 7/22, 10:00-11:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Middle East Institute. Speakers: Holly Dagres, Non-Resident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council; Arash Ghafouri, CEO, Stasis Consulting; Alex Vatanka, Director of Iran Program, Middle East Institute; Nazee Moinian, Non-Resident Scholar, Middle East Institute. 

SHIFTING THE TRADE PARADIGM: CAN WE DO BETTER FOR GLOBAL CITIZENS (AND DEMOCRACY)? 7/22, 11:00-Noon (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR). Speakers: Katherine Tai, United States Trade Representative; Prof.Simon Johnson, MIT, CEPR Fellow. 

BUILDING A STRATEGY TO COUNTER HONG KONG’S ROLE IN SANCTIONS EVASION. 7/22, 11:00am-Noon (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Hudson. Speakers: Olivia Enos, Senior Fellow; Samuel Bickett, Lawyer and Head, US-Hong Kong Policy Roundtable; Sunny Cheung, Associate Fellow for China, Jamestown Foundation.

PREPARING FOR A DEMOCRATIC FUTURE OF NORTH KOREA: NEXT GENERATION LEADERSHIP. 7/22, 3:00-4:30pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: National Endowment for Democracy. Speakers Include: NED, ROK Ministry of Unification, Human Asia, and the “next generation of North Korean leaders.”.

POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY: THE U.S.-U.K. SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP IN THE AGE OF TRUMP, FARAGE, AND BREXIT. 7/22, 6:00-7:00pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Heritage. Speakers: Matthew Goodwin, Professor, Politics and International Relations, University of Kent; Andrew Hale, Jay Van Andel Senior Policy Analyst, Trade Policy.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

No Conclusion on Stable Imperial Succession

Empress Suiko (推古天皇) (554 – 15 April 628)
Still skittish on female succession
By Takuya Nishimura, Senior Fellow, Former Editorial Writer for The Hokkaido Shimbun
The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun
You can find his blog, J Update here.
July 15, 2024. Special to Asia Policy Point

The Diet failed to act on stable imperial succession by the end of the ordinary session of this year. Although the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the House of Councillors looked for a way to increase the members of the Imperial House, the parties could not reach an agreement.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was late in wrapping up their internal opinions, due to the slush fund scandal and its consequences. Looking at the opinions submitted by the parties, it is not easy to find a consensus between the conservatives and the other sectors of the Diet.

The Imperial House of Japan has 17 members, 12 of whom are female. They share official duties such as attending public events or visiting foreign countries. According to the Imperial House Law, only male members may succeed to the throne. Female members leave the House when they marry. Currently, Prince Hisahito of Akishino, a son of Crown Price Fumihito, is the youngest in the line of succession.

A supplementary resolution in the Special Law for Imperial Abdication in 2017 required the Diet to achieve “a full consensus of the legislative branch” for measures to stabilize imperial succession. The resolution also directed the government of Japan to consider allowing for a female-headed Imperial family.

In March 2021, former Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga assembled an expert panel to examine succession issues. That December, the panel submitted the Prime Minister, now Fumio Kishida, a report that proposed two options to deal with the declining number of members in the Imperial House. Neither, however, addressed female succession.

One was to allow female members of the imperial household to retain their royal status regardless of marriage. Members of the Imperial House take on various obligations of the Imperial family such as attending cultural, academic, or sporting events, visiting areas devastated by natural disasters, and visiting foreign countries. As female members leave the House, those obligations are taken by fewer members. If female members stay in the house, the House would be sustainable.

A second was to allow males from former branches of the imperial family to regain their imperial status through adoption. Two years after the end of World War II, fifty-one people from eleven houses left the Imperial House. The second option would return their male descendants to the Imperial House.

Kishida submitted the report to both Houses of the Diet for further discussion in January 2022.

Each party first reviewed the report internally. Komeito approved both options as reasonable. The Japan Innovation Party, leaning conservative, also approved both options as realistic. Both parties are comfortable that the options do not include female succession. The conservatives hope to maintain the rule of paternal succession.

The Constitutional Democratic Party asked for further discussion of the first option because the report excluded the husband and children of female House members from royal status. The CDP also requested information on who among the male members of the former branches would consider rejoining the Imperial House through adoption.

The Japan Communist Party (JCP) would allow a female emperor, or an emperor descended matrilineally from the Imperial Family. While the JCP hopes to pave the way to a female emperor, conservative lawmakers oppose that idea.

The last party that submitted its opinion was the Liberal Democratic Party. The LDP approved both options in mid-April.

Concerning the requirement of “a full consensus of the legislative branch” in the Special Law for Imperial Abdication, both Houses sought an overall agreement at several meetings in May. At the first meeting, with the speaker and president of the Houses and representatives of parties in attendance, each party expressed its own opinion. The LDP added that a son of an adopted male member should be qualified as a successor. No consensus emerged.

In late May, both chairs of the Houses and each party held separate meetings with each party. There was no plenary meeting. The LDP is committed to exclusively male succession. The CDP and the JCP are willing to expand the line of succession to female members of the Imperial House and to male members in matrilineal lines.

Back in 2005, the Junichiro Koizumi administration convened an expert panel that submitted a report recommended that the possibility of a female or matrilineal emperor be easily understood by the people, be based on traditional values and ensure a stable succession system. However, after Prince Hisahito was born in 2006, the LDP turned against the idea of a female or matrilineal emperor.

A Kyodo News poll last April revealed that 90 percent of those polled supported the idea of a reigning empress. However, the current experts’ panel recommended that, considering the age and marital status of Prince Hisahito, the discussion over the imperial succession take place in the future. In short, the LDP and current experts oppose the concept of a female emperor, while the CDP and former experts for Koizumi administration embrace it.

To the extent that the Diet is now dealing with the Imperial Family, it is focused on how to reduce the family’s official duties. But once lawmakers begin to discuss who should share the duties of the Imperial Family, the question of succession is unavoidable.

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Monday Asia Events July 15, 2024

NATO AND NORTHEAST ASIA: AN EXPANDING PARTNERSHIP. 7/15, 8:00-9:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Asia Society Policy Institute. Speakers: Masafumi Ishii, fmr. South Korean Ambassador to NATO; Hyoung Zhin Kim, fmr. Diplomat, ROK; Danny Russel, ASPI Vice President.
2024 DISTRIBUTIONAL EFFECTS OF TRADE AND TRADE POLICY - SEMINAR 1: GENDER-SEGMENTED LABOR MARKETS AND TRADE SHOCKS. 7/15, 10:00-11:30am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: United States International Trade Commission. Speakers: Raymond Robertson, Texas A&M University; Carlos Góes, PhD Candidate, USCD Economics; Gladys Lopez Acevedo, Lead Economist, Global Lead, Poverty and Equity Global Practice, World Bank.

HOW ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES ARE RESHAPING MANUFACTURING. 7/15, 10:00am-NOON (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Brookings. Speakers: John Hazen White, Jr., Executive Chairman, Taco Family of Companies, Trustee, Brookings; Bruce Lawler, Managing Director, MIT Machine Intelligence for Manufacturing and Operations, General Manager Digital, Re:Build Manufacturing; Helena Fu, Director, Office of Critical and Emerging Technologies, U.S. Department of Energy; Heather Evans, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing Industry & Analysis, International Trade Administration; Berardino Baratta, CEO, MxD.   

AEROSPACE NATION: LT GEN ANDREW J. GEBARA, DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF FOR STRATEGIC DETERRENCE AND NUCLEAR INTEGRATION. 7/15, 10:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. Speaker: Lt Gen Andrew J. Gebara, Deputy Chief of Staff, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration.

BOOK EVENT: DETERRENCE, DIPLOMACY AND THE RISK OF CONFLICT OVER TAIWAN BY BILL EMMOTT. 7/15, 10:00-11:00am (EDT), 3:00-4:00pm (BST), HYBRID. Sponsor: IISS. Speakers: author Bill Emmott, Chairman of the IISS Trustees, independent writer and consultant; Professor Phillips P. O’Brien, Professor of Strategic Studies, Head of the School of International Relations, University of St. Andrews. PURCHASE BOOK:

AI TRANSFORMATION AT THE DOD: A CONVERSATION WITH CHIEF DIGITAL AND AI OFFICER, DR. RADHA PLUMB. 7/15, 1:30-2:30pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: CSIS. Speaker: Radha Plumb, Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer, Department of Defense.

Friday, July 12, 2024

Tokyo's Elections

Resentment against Existing Parties Shown in Tokyo Elections

By Takuya Nishimura, Senior Fellow, Former Editorial Writer for The Hokkaido Shimbun
The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun
You can find his blog, J Update here.
July 8, 2024. Special to Asia Policy Point

The incumbent governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike, secured her third term in the gubernatorial election on July 7. A contender supported by the opposition parties in national politics, Renho, came third behind an independent candidate, Shinji Ishimaru. The result, including by-elections for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, showed a fundamental resentment against existing political parties -- casting a shadow on the future of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

In her campaign Koike promised to update her policies, including support for families with children, and emphasized disaster management. She named her campaign policies “Tokyo Great Reform 3.0.”

Koike did not accept official support from the LDP and Komeito for her campaign. Still, both parties voluntarily promoted her. According to an exit poll of NHK, 60 percent of LDP supporters and 80 percent of Komeito supporters voted for Koike. They are undeniably the driving force behind Koike’s victory.

She successfully distanced herself from the LDP, which has been unpopular in the current election season. The party’s unpopularity dates to the by-elections for the House of Representatives in April and is the result of the slush fund scandal. Although Koike was formerly an LDP lawmaker, she separated from the LDP as the governor of Tokyo, leading her Tokyoites First Party. That stance made LDP’s “stealth support” for Koike easier.

Renho meanwhile failed to set her agenda within the structure of confrontation between the leading and opposition parties in national politics. When she announced her candidacy in May, Renho emphasized her bid against Koike as “anti-LDP, non-Koike.” But Koike eluded Renho’s campaign strategy, by refusing any help from the LDP on the campaign trail. Renho ironically lost her momentum by accepting support from the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP) and the Japan Communist Party (JCP).

The true anti-LDP candidate turned out to be Ishimaru. As a former mayor of Aki-Takata City, Hiroshima, Ishimaru ran his campaign through social networking. In his speeches on the street, he asked his audience to upload his campaign materials to the Internet, instead appealing his own policies for Tokyo. In YouTube videos, he continued to denounce existing politics.

Unfortunately for Koike, she did not receive a true majority of the vote; the sum of votes for Renho and Ishimaru exceeded what Koike obtained. There were frequent disturbances during Koike’s speeches. It is undeniable that Koike was regarded by voters as one of the leaders of the old politics.

It was a comfortable outcome for the LDP, none the less. Since the complete defeat in all three by-elections of the House of Representatives in April, Koike’s win was the first major victory of a candidate supported by the LDP. Party leaders are not feeling it, though. “Koike’s victory is not our party’s victory. Criticisms still remain and we need to promote party reforms,” LDP Deputy Secretary General, Tomomi Inada, told NHK News.

The LDP’s pessimism is based on the result of the by-elections for the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly that were held the same day. Although the LDP ran candidates in eight of nine districts, it won in only two. The party representation was reduced by three seats in the election, facing criticisms of its management of political funds as shown in the slush fund scandal in the Diet.

In the Hachioji district, an independent candidate defeated the LDP candidate by a great margin. Hachioji is the district where one of the leaders of the Abe faction, Koichi Hagiuda, has been keeping his seat in the House of Representatives. Although party leaders, including Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi and a popular candidate as the next prime minister Shigeru Ishiba, campaigned for the LDP candidate, their appearances did not soften the negative impact on the party.

In the Koto district, which overlaps with the Tokyo 15 district in the House of Representatives -- where the LDP lost in a by-election in April -- the LDP candidate lost to an independent. In the other four districts, the LDP lost by slight margins to the CDP, the Tokyoites First Party or an independent. Strangely enough, the LDP won by a big margin in the Itabashi district, which is in the grip of another leader of the Abe faction, Hakubun Shimomura, who is among the most conservative.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida did not stand on the stage of any campaigns in the Tokyo gubernatorial election or the by-elections of the assembly. It was obvious that Kishida would have received harsh criticism of his handling of the slush fund scandal from the audience. The result of the elections in Tokyo will work against Kishida’s reelection this fall.

Renho’s defeat cast doubt on the value of the CDP’s cooperation with the JCP.   Running Renho for Tokyo governor was a decision of the CDP with expectation that, in the party’s following winds from the major victories in the by-elections in April, she could sail to victory.

The CDP may reconsider its strategy for the next general election of the House of Representatives. The result of elections in Tokyo may also affect the selection of the next CDP leader in September.

The unexpected success of Ishimaru may affect the campaign strategies of the existing parties. Ishimaru proved that a campaign relying on SNS could overcome the biggest opposition party. He boasted that running against Prime Minister Kishida in his district in Hiroshima of the House of Representatives would be an option for him in the next election. His message against the politics of existing parties struck a chord with certain voters.

Frustration with current politics is reflected in the number of candidates. Fifty-six candidates ran for the one seat of governor, marking a new record. The public poster boards in the streets did not have room for all the candidates.

Tokyo gubernatorial election in 2024 was not completely an event for selecting the next governor of Tokyo. Some candidates did not intend to work as governor, but to collect money by selling an opportunity for voters to express their disappointment with the process or to earn more page views in SNS. The existing parties have begun to consider new legislation to regulate election campaigns. The biggest loser might be democracy in Japan.

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Monday Asia Events July 8, 2024

NATIONAL CONSERVATISM CONFERENCE, WASHINGTON, DC. 7/8-9, HYBRID. Sponsor: Edmund Burke Foundation. Speakers Include: Rt Hon Suella Braverman, KC MP, Secretary of State, Home Department and Member of Parliament for Fareham; Elbridge Colby, Co-founder, Principal, The Marathon Initiative; Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), Senior United States Senator, Missouri; Ram Madhav, President of the India Foundation (IF); David P. Goldman, Deputy Editor, Asia Times

DAY ONE FOR THE NEW UK GOVERNMENT. 7/8, 1:00-2:15pm (BST), 8:00-9:15am (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Chatham House. Speakers: Lord Simon McDonald, former Permanent Under Secretary, Head of Diplomatic Service, Foreign & Commonwealth Office; Creon Butler, Director, Global Economy and Finance Programme; Dr Tim Benton, Director, Environment and Society Centre; Sunder Katwala, Director, British Future; Olivia O’Sullivan, Director, UK in the World Programme. 

REVISITING THE LEGACY OF SHINZO ABE. 7/8, 9:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Stimson. Speakers: Kunihiko Miyake, Senior Advisor, Canon Institute for Global Studies; Tobias Harris, Founder, Principal, Japan Foresight LLC; Yuki Tatsumi, Co-Director, East Asia Program, Stimson Center. 

CRIMEA: WHERE RUSSIA'S WAR BEGAN AND WHERE UKRAINE WILL WIN. 7/8, 10:00-11:15am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Jamestown Foundation. Speakers: Peter Mattis, President, Jamestown Foundation; Dr. Taras Kuzio, professor, National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, associate research fellow, Henry Jackson Society; Amb. Daniel Fried, Weiser Family Distinguished Fellow, Atlantic Council, director, National Endowment for Democracy, Visiting Professor, Warsaw University. 

PIVOTAL STATES: IS A DEEPER ALLIANCE WITH SAUDI ARABIA WORTH IT? 7/8, 10:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Carnegie. Speakers: Kim Ghattas, Contributing Editor, Financial Times, author, Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East; Aaron David Miller, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Ambassador Dennis Ross, Counselor, William Davidson Distinguished Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy. 

MARITIME SECURITY AND NEXT-GENERATION TECHNOLOGIES: A PLATFORM FOR COOPERATION BETWEEN NATO AND ITS ASIA-PACIFIC PARTNERS. 7/8, 10:00-11:30am (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Hudson. Speakers: Benedetta Berti, Head of Policy Planning, Office of the Secretary-General, NATO; Tsuneo Watanabe, Senior Research Fellow, Sasakawa Peace Foundation; Peter Rough, Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Europe and Eurasia; Kenneth R. Weinstein, Japan Chair, Hudson. 

BOOK TALK: ACCIDENTAL DIPLOMATS AMERICAN MISSIONARIES AND THE COLD WAR. 7/8, Noon-1:00pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Berkeley Center, Georgetown University. Speakers: Judd Birdsall, assistant professor, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Georgetown University; author Philip Dow, head, Black Forest Academy, Kandern, Germany. PURCHASE BOOK: 

POLICY BRIEF LAUNCH EVENT: SECURING LEBANON TO PREVENT A LARGER HEZBOLLAH-ISRAEL WAR AND WIDER ESCALATION. 7/8, Noon-1:30pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Middle East Institute (MEI). Speakers: Paul Salem, Vice President for International Engagement, MEI; Amb. Ed Gabriel, President and CEO, American Task Force on Lebanon, Former US Ambassador to Morocco; Patricia Karam, Senior Advisor, American Task Force on Lebanon; Fadi Nicholas Nassar, US-Lebanon Fellow, MEI; Amb. David Hale, Global Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Center, Former US Ambassador to Lebanon.

IS IT ME OR THE ECONOMIC SYSTEM? CHANGING CHINESE ATTITUDES TOWARD INEQUALITY: A BIG DATA CHINA EVENT. 7/8, 10:00-11:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Scott Rozelle, Co-Director, Stanford Center on China's Economy and Institutions; Martin Whyte, John Zwaanstra Professor, International Studies and Sociology, Emeritus, Harvard University; Scott Kennedy, Senior Adviser, Trustee Chair, Chinese Business and Economics, CSIS; Ilaria Mazzocco, Senior Fellow, Trustee Chair, Chinese Business and Economics, CSIS; Elizabeth Perry, Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government, Harvard University; Jessica C. Teets, Professor of Political Science, Middlebury College; Qin Gao, Professor of Social Policy and Social Work, Director, China Center for Social Policy, Columbia University. 

THE MORNING AFTER: ANALYSING THE RESULTS OF THE FRENCH ELECTION. 7/8, 2:30-3:30am (EDT), 8:30-9:30am (CEST), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). Speakers: Célia Belin, Head, ECFR Paris; Ulrike Franke, Senior Policy Fellow, ECFR; Camille Lons, Deputy Head, ECFR Paris. 

LAUNCH OF WOMEN LEAD: WOMEN LEADING EFFECTIVE AND ACCOUNTABLE DEMOCRACY IN THE DIGITAL AGE. 7/8, 2:30pm (EDT), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Carnegie. Speakers: Jennifer Klein, Assistant to the President, Director, White House Gender Policy Council; Dr. Geeta Rao Gupta, Ambassador-at-large, Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues, Department of State. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Monday Asia Events July 1, 2024

WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE EU? 7/1, 9:30am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers: Léonie Allard, Visiting Fellow, Europe Center, Atlantic Council; Frances Burwell, Distinguished Fellow, Europe Center, Atlantic Council; Charles Lichfield, Deputy Director, C. Boyden Gray Senior Fellow, GeoEconomics Center, Atlantic Council; Olga Khakova, Deputy Director, European Energy Security, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council; Rachel Rizzo, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Europe Center, Transfor Europe Initiative, Atlantic Council.

BRETTON WOODS AT 80: EVOLVING FOR THE NEW GLOBAL ECONOMY. 7/1, 1:00pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers: Axel van Trotsenburg; Senior Managing Director, World Bank; Atish Rex Ghosh, Deputy Director, Strategic, Policy, and Review Department, IMF; Alexia Latortue, Assistant Secretary, International Trade and Development, US Department of the Treasury; Creon Butler. Director, Global Economy and Finance Programme, Chatham House.

BOOK TALK: CONFLICT: THE EVOLUTION OF WARFARE FROM 1945 TO UKRAINE. 7/1, 2:00pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: McCain Institute. Speaker: author Gen. (Ret.) David Petraeus, Partner, KKR, Chairman, KKR Global Institute, Board Member, McCain Institute. PURCHASE BOOK:

WILL BIDEN’S SAUDI SECURITY PACT SPARK A NUCLEAR ARMS RACE? 7/1, 2:00-3:00pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Quincy Institute. Speakers: Thomas Countryman, former United States Assistant Secretary of State, International Security and Nonproliferation; Ariel Petrovics, Non-Resident Fellow, Quincy Institute, Assistant Research Scholar, University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy; Robert Einhorn, Senior Fellow in the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative, Brookings Institution.

OUR POLYCRISIS SUMMER. 7/1, 4:00-5:00pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Carnegie. Speakers: Kate Mackenzie, independent writer, researcher, consultant, Paris Agreement goals, fellow, Centre for Policy Development; Tim Sahay, co-editor, Polycrisis at Phenomenal World, co-director, Net Zero Industrial Policy Lab, Johns Hopkins University; David Wallace-Wells, writer, New York Times Opinion, columnist, New York Times Magazine; Noah Gordon, Acting Co-Director, Sustainability, Climate, and Geopolitics Program, Fellow, Europe Program.

EXECUTING DISTRIBUTED OPERATIONS IN A CONTESTED MARITIME ENVIRONMENT. 7/1, 4:00-5:15pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Atlantic Council. Speakers: Dmitry Filipoff, Associate Research Analyst, Operational Warfighting Division, Center for Naval Analyses; Director, Online Content, Center for International Maritime Security; Barbara Anderson, Director, Strategy and Performance Management, Herren Associates; RADM Tony Lengerich, USN (ret.), VP Naval Programs, Thales Defense & Security, Inc.

BOOK TALK: CHINA AND TAIWAN: WILL IT COME TO CONFLICT? 7/1, 6:30-8:00pm (EDT), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Asia Society-Center on US-China Relations. Speakers: author Matt Pottinger, Visiting Fellow, Hoover; Amb. Winston Lord, U.S. Ambassador to China from 1985 to 1989; Jianying Zha, writer and journalist; Zongyuan Zoe Liu, Maurice R. Greenberg Fellow for China Studies, CFR. PURCHASE BOOK:

Japan's Ordinary Diet Session Ends

A bad term for Kishida

By Takuya Nishimura, Senior Fellow, Former Editorial Writer for The Hokkaido Shimbun
The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun
You can find his blog, J Update here.
June 23, 2024. Special to Asia Policy Point

On June 23, Japan’s ordinary Diet session for this year ended. From the beginning, the session was preoccupied with the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) slush fund scandal.  Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration barely survived persistent inquiries from the opposition parties about the LDP’s secret expenditures of political funds.  By now, Kishida is exhausted after his efforts to protect his party and isolated from nearly everyone in the party. His reelection as LDP president this fall is uncertain at best.

The slush fund scandal came to public attention last November when a professor, Hiroshi Kamiwaki, found that some lawmakers had reported actual expenditures more than their fundraising. This difference lay in the fact that lawmakers, most of whom were affiliated with the Abe faction, had failed to report income from the sales of tickets for fundraising parties. The Special Investigation Division of the Tokyo Public Prosecutors Office began to investigate them and their factions.

Before the Diet’s ordinary session was convened in January, Kishida tried to protect his Cabinet by firing four Ministers of the Abe faction. But it was too little too late to mitigate the impact of the slush fund scandal. It emerged that the secret “kickback” of party ticket sales was a regular method of distributing political funds in the Abe faction. In January, the Public Prosecutor’s Office indicted three lawmakers in that faction and a number of accounting managers in the Abe and Nikai factions.

Considering public resentment of the LDP, Kishida suddenly announced that he would dissolve his own faction, Kochi-kai. He did not consult with his closest allies, LDP Vice-president Taro Aso or Secretary General Toshimitsu Motegi. When the leaders of the Abe faction were reluctant to appear before the Political Ethics Council of both Houses to address the scandal, Kishida abruptly decided to urge the leaders of Abe faction to attend the Council meetings.

Those two unilateral decisions -- dissolving Kochi-kai and appearing before the Councils – put considerable distance between Kishida and other party leaders. The leaders regarded Kishida’s decisions as a form of populism.

The LDP eventually determined that 82 lawmakers had failed to report kickbacks and punished 39. The 39 included Ryu Shionoya, the chair of the Abe faction, and Hiroshige Seko, the top leader of the Upper House lawmakers in the faction. Both left the party. Other leaders, including some from the Nikai faction, were suspended from party membership or party leadership posts. These lawmakers felt they were being made scapegoats for the Kishida administration.

In handling the scandal, Kishida could never explain to the public why the scandal had happened. Some believe that the kickback system in the Abe faction began when former prime minister Yoshiro Mori was the faction leader. But Kishida did not ask Mori for details, thus casting doubt on Kishida’s seriousness about the issue. Kishida’s seeming indifference to public sentiment against politicians’ mismanagement of political funds to avoid taxation caused a steady decline in the approval ratings of his administration.

In the second half of the ordinary session, Kishida focused on a bill to amend the Political Funds Control Act. Although the bill passed the Diet at the end of the session, it included three important loopholes.

First, at the insistence of Komeito, the LDP lowered the threshold for disclosing the identities of party ticket purchasers from 200 thousand yen to 50 thousand yen. But the LDP did not revise the bill to set a limit on the number of fundraising parties each year.

Second, the bill requires certain disclosures about policy activity funds, the money that is distributed from a party to its leaders without mandate of reporting. But there is a time lag: disclosures are required only 10 years after the distribution of funds. Moreover, the crime of failing to properly report political funds will legally become invalid after five years. It is possible that an incorrect report cannot be punished when it is disclosed ten years after, because it already is invalid.

Third, the law requires every lawmaker to certify his or her political funds report. Yet if the certification is wrong, the legislation allows a lawmaker to blame his or her accounting manager.

Caught in the middle between the LDP, which has sought as loose regulation as possible and the opposition parties, sometimes including Komeito, which have called for stricter standards on political funds, Kishida made compromises with both sides. The decision to lower threshold for the disclosure of party ticket purchasers left behind leaders of the LDP including Aso and Motegi.

Kishida’s unilateral handling of politics during the session has taken its toll. In the leaders’ debate in the last week of the session, in which the opposition leaders demanded that Kishida dissolve the House of Representatives and hold a general election, Kishida firmly rejected a snap election at the end of the session.

Although the opposition parties proposed a no-confidence resolution in the prime minister, the ruling party rejected it with majority of votes. Arguments remain, however, that Kishida is not a fit party leader in the coming presidential election. Kuniyoshi Azuma, a member of the Lower House affiliated with the Motegi faction, explicitly questioned Kishida’s campaign. “Kishida should be circumspect in referring to his reelection and have more self-restraint,” said Azuma at a meeting in Asahikawa City, Hokkaido.

Party leaders now hold clandestine meetings to discuss the timing of a snap election. Summer elections would give the LDP a miserable defeat because of the extremely low approval rating for the Kishida Cabinet and the LDP. They have concluded that it would be best for a snap election to be held this fall after September’s selection of a new LDP president.