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
Wednesday 21 October 1992
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.
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...
£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...
£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...