Kanemaru's heirs feud in war of succession: Terry McCarthy in Tokyo finds a cynical power struggle in progress over the legacy of Japan's political kingmaker

HAVING exploited Japan's system of money politics for more than 30 years, Shin Kanemaru, the prime political fixer of his day, was forced to resign last week. His receipt of illegal political donations and his links with gangsters were finally exposed.

But now the budding disciples of Mr Kanemaru's political faction are fighting over the right to become his heir - and they are attacking each other with no holds barred. Whoever succeeds him will aspire to don Mr Kanemaru's mantle as leader of the strongest faction within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) - a position with immense power which allowed Mr Kanemaru personally to pick the last four prime ministers of Japan.

But, as the Japanese media have not been slow to point out, the power struggle within Mr Kanemaru's old faction is going on behind closed doors, with no hint of democratic accountability.

What is more, in their struggle to hold the faction together and produce a new leader, the faction members are entirely ignoring the root cause of the crisis - a far- reaching corruption and organised-crime scandal for which no one, apart from Mr Kanemaru himself, appears willing to take responsibility.

Mr Kanemaru's old faction has 109 Diet, or parliamentary, members, more than a quarter of the LDP's representation in the two houses of the Diet. It is commonly known as the Takeshita faction, after the former prime minister Noboru Takeshita, who set it up in 1987 before he was disgraced in the Recruit shares-for-favours scandal two years later.

The strength of the faction is its ability to raise huge sums of money from corporate Japan and thus perpetuate its hold on power. Until he was implicated in revelations of an illegal donation of pounds 2m from a scandal-ridden trucking firm, Mr Kanemaru was seen as the absolute master of this system.

Before the scandal, Mr Kanemaru, 78, had wanted a hand- picked protege, Ichiro Ozawa, 50, to succeed him. But Mr Ozawa is seen by other faction members as being overly headstrong and ambitious and too closely linked with Mr Kanemaru during the scandal. After several days of private meetings among eight top figures in the faction, Mr Ozawa yesterday said he would not seek to take over the leadership. But the fight for a compromise candidate is still going on.

These cynical power struggles have done little to raise the image of politicians with their electorate. They have also prompted a chilling response from an officer in the Japanese military, who wrote in a widely respected magazine last week that the only way out of the impasse of political corruption was for the army to stage a coup.

'It is no longer possible to correct injustice through an election in the legitimate way that is the basis of democracy,' wrote Major Shinsaku Yanai in the Shukan Bunshun. 'The only means left is a revolution by coup d'etat.'

While few Japanese expected to see the military back on the streets as they were in the turmoil of the 1930s, Major Yanai's article at least sent another warning signal that the Japanese people are beginning to tire of the corrupt, feudal political system by which they are now governed.

The unaccountability of the political system has been highlighted by the apparent paralysis of Kiichi Miyazawa, the Prime Minister, during the entire scandal. Apart from calling the debacle 'an unfortunate thing', Mr Miyazawa has remained silent throughout, unable to intervene in the faction's congress, where real power is being wielded.

Worse still, until the balance of power within the Takeshita faction is settled, the government is unable to address two serious issues: the implementation of a supplementary budget to stimulate the economy and possible demands for the opening of Japan's rice market in the Gatt negotiations.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
i100(More than you think)
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey


Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner