Meet the new daijin, same as the old daijin

On Friday morning, Prime Minister Abe summoned forty-eight-year-old Akagi Norihiko to Kantei and requested that Akagi serve as Matsuoka Toshikatsu’s successor at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF). Akagi, a Tokyo University graduate, MAFF old boy (OB), and grandson of an agriculture minister in the cabinet of Abe’s grandfather Kishi, was first elected the same year as Matsuoka (1990) and served in a similar succession of posts in LDP policy organs as Matsuoka.

In other words, he’s a younger, more elite version of the late Mr. Matsuoka. (I say more elite because, as I wrote in this post, Matsuoka was not a Todai grad, not a ministry generalist OB, and not a hereditary politician.)

There are no indications that the policies Akagi will pursue will be any different from Matsuoka, and there are already signs of inappropriate monetary dealings between Akagi’s koenkai and groups seeking contracts from MAFF. As Abe made clear when appointing him, Akagi will, like Matsuoka, seek to promote further reform of Japanese agriculture, work to the target of one trillion yen in agricultural exports, and act as a tough negotiator in WTO negotiations. In other words, agricultural mercantilism and favoritism on behalf of companies and farmers supporting the LDP.

Akagi’s accession to the cabinet is a clear illustration that the problem is much bigger than Matsuoka: the problem is systemic. No cabinet-eligible LDP politician has clean hands.

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