PM's retreat on graft leaves Japanese cold

THE best-selling political book in Japan at the moment is not a breezy, optimistic manifesto for change by the Prime Minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, or any of his reform- minded colleagues. It is The Nine Politicians that Ruined Japan by Koichi Hamada, an outspoken former politician whose biting criticisms of corrupt political leaders have perfectly captured the public mood towards the ruling class.

The compromise over political reform agreed upon by the government and the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) over the weekend, although touted as a great step forward by the Prime Minister's aides, will have done little to dispel the public's cynicism. It did, however, cheer the stock market, with the Nikkei index closing sharply up at 20,229, a 7.8 per cent jump over Friday's close.

But traders said the reason for the market's optimism had nothing to do with the substance of the new laws - it was sheer relief that weeks of political bickering were over, and the government was now free to turn its mind to the economy. Mr Hosokawa was quick to announce that an economic stimulus package - which may be as large as Y15 trillion ( pounds 88bn) - will be announced this week, probably on Thursday.

It is not that the Japanese public do not want their corrupt political system thoroughly cleansed and modernised. Opinion polls repeatedly put support for political reform at more than 70 per cent of the population, and the fact that even some reform measures have been accepted will be welcomed. Nor is there any doubt that Japan is undergoing serious changes in its economic structure and social attitudes. But few voters will have been convinced that the new laws announced on Saturday will radically alter the money politics which has plagued the country for so long.

Mr Hamada's book has only been on sale for two months, but it has already sold 1,230,000 copies - twice as many as A Plan to Remodel Japan, the programme for political change written last summer by Ichiro Ozawa, the main force behind the current government. Ironically Mr Ozawa, formerly one of the main fund-raisers for the LDP, is one of the 'infamous nine' accused of ruining Japan by institutionalising corruption, along with three former prime ministers involved in bribery scandals and other political leaders.

After the government's political reform package was unexpectedly voted down in the Diet (parliament) the week before, Mr Hosokawa was forced to accept a watered- down set of 'reform laws' drawn up by the LDP to suit their own interests. Otherwise he would have lost his job, since he had vowed to step down if he could not get a reform package passed in the Diet session.

The most blatant difference between the two plans was Mr Hosokawa's proposal to ban all corporate donations to individual politicians, which Mr Hamada pin pointed in his book as one of the main starting points for political corruption and bribery. In Saturday's compromise the LDP forced the Prime Minister to drop this ban, so that the pork-barrelling will continue. The LDP also forced him to accept a less radical reform of the electoral system than had been proposed, so that their regional vote-gathering machines will retain at least some of their effectiveness.

The way the compromise was agreed upon also harked back to the old political custom - four men sitting in a private room making an agreement in secret to suit their own interests on a matter that should have been of vital concern to the entire Diet and the voters who elected them.

Mr Hosokawa, accompanied by Mr Ozawa - both men are former LDP members who defected to form the new government - sat down with Yohei Kono and Yoshiro Mori, the president and secretary-general respectively of the LDP. It was just like the old days of inter-factional squabbling within the LDP governments.

But Mr Hosokawa emerges a weaker leader from the process. The LDP now knows it can bully him to achieve what it wants. Mr Hosokawa's coalition government looks more shaky than ever, with a large faction within the Socialist Party in more or less open revolt.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect