Fukuda in charge

Contradicting reports leaked while he was out of the country, Mr. Fukuda has exhibited once again how he differs from his predecessor by asserting control of government and party and declaring that he will not in fact reshuffle his cabinet at the end of this Diet session (HT: Shisaku).

It’s not entirely clear who suggested to the media that a reshuffle was imminent, although at least one article I read quoted former Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro as speaking of the benefits of a cabinet reshuffle in advance of the regular Diet session.

This episode illustrates just how parlous Mr. Fukuda’s position within the LDP is, as he must contend not just with conservative ideologues, who have begun to reorganize within the party and whose comrades at conservative magazines and newspapers have turned sharply against the prime minister, but also with the party elders, who live in fear of losing power and thus overreact at the first sign of trouble (and reluctant to embrace anything but the most modest of reforms). By taking faction leaders into his government and party executive, Mr. Fukuda co-opted risk-averse party elders and likely limited the damage they could do to his government. (I floated this idea in this post, written right after Mr. Fukuda took office.) Mr. Mori’s influence, however, appears undiminished — and this is a bad thing. Mr. Mori is an obstacle to genuine reform both within the LDP and Japan at large, and if he was behind the reshuffle rumors, then it is encouraging to see another prime minister reject his influence.

The folly of the proposed reshuffle does not need to be repeated. After all, as MTC wrote in a post about a conversation we had recently, the beneficiaries from a reshuffle would likely be the ideologues, who are currently marginalized in terms of holding cabinet and party leadership posts. Better to let them stew in their rage than to include them in the government and give them free rein to undermine Mr. Fukuda’s government from within the cabinet.

By rejecting this bad idea, Mr. Fukuda has shown an adroitness that Mr. Abe lacked — it takes no small amount of fortitude to reject bad advice from professed allies.

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