Fukuda passes, for now

It appears increasingly unlikely that Fukuda Yasuo will decide to reshuffle his cabinet before the autumn Diet session.

NHK is reporting that at the very least there will be no decision on a reshuffle before the end of the month, as two members of the cabinet are delayed in returning from WTO talks abroad.

Mr. Fukuda told reporters — rather sternly — that “not once have I said something about [a cabinet reshuffle].”

This gets to the heart of the matter. The persistence of the cabinet reshuffle story on the basis of complete silence from the prime minister shows both how the media can be the cat’s paw of certain ruling party politicians and how a herd mentality among the major media organizations can transform the political discussion. For weeks political discussion has focused on the prospects of a reshuffle, thanks to persistent leaks “from within the ruling party” on the likelihood and timing of a reshuffle.

It was about time that the prime minister stood up to the media’s groundless speculation. Unfortunately there may be little Mr. Fukuda can do about the manipulators of the media within his own party, who may now use the media to fuel speculation about the need to replace Mr. Fukuda with someone else quickly. As Nikkei reports today, “there is a possiblity that the ‘post-Fukuda era’ will appear rapidly.”

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