Koizumi comparisons continue

Hanaoka Nobuaki, journalist and onetime gubernatorial candidate in Nagano, has an interesting op-ed in today’s Sankei Shimbun looking at how Abe has yet to find his “Three Sacred Treasures,” the equivalent of the three advisors to Koizumi who helped shape his reform agenda: Shiokawa Masajyuro, his finance minister; Takenaka Heizo, his reform guru; and Iijima Isao, his private secretary.

The roles played by these three close advisers to Koizumi were important in his (failed) bid to shift the center of gravity in policy making away from the LDP-bureaucracy complex and place it squarely in the hands of the prime minister and the cabinet. Beyond the policy roles played by Koizumi’s treasures, however, Hanaoka suggests that each was critical in ensuring that the government’s message remained clear and coherent. (Although, again, their successes were hardly unambiguous.)

Abe, meanwhile, chose loyalty over competence — doesn’t that sound familiar — and has paid the price in terms of public support for his cabinet.

Whether Hanaoka is correct in his assessment of the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the Koizumi and Abe Cabinets is a question for debate, but his op-ed reveals real fractures in the LDP as the party prepares for July’s Upper House election. Much of Hanaoka’s analysis is drawn from comments by a “veteran LDP parliamentarian.” Whoever that may be, it is clear that the parliamentarian in question supported the shift in policy making power away from the organs of the LDP and to the Kantei and cabinet. Is there a Koizumist insurgency lurking in the shadows of the LDP, discontent with the failure of Koizumi’s chosen heir to adhere to the Koizumi legacy?

Meanwhile, it seems that Abe will never be able to shake comparisons with his predecessor. Koizumi raised the bar for his successors, making the office of prime minister a far more public position than ever before. To date, Abe has failed to fill those shoes.

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