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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project