How “the atmosphere” can change the Japanese public’s view on politics: former finance minister


Hirohisa Fujii (Mainichi / Taro Fujii)

The presidential election of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) began on September 17. Japan’s healthcare system is still under great pressure, but the trends among the LDP presidential candidates are being reported day after day as high profile news on television. Media coverage of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who announced his resignation after reaching an impasse in his management of government, has plummeted, as if he is already a leader of the past while still in office.

Former Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii, 89, is sounding the alarm on the current situation in which the public tends to feel that the PLD is reborn.

Fujii retired from politics after his last post as Supreme Advisor to the Democratic Party of Japan (PDJ). Regarding the political situation in Japan today, he warns: “What is scariest in society is the atmosphere. The public is moved by the atmosphere. I’m sure some people could say the PLD is making a comeback. It’s a cunning party. ”

Taro Kono (Mainichi / Toshiki Miyama)

In an August 28 opinion poll conducted by the Mainichi Shimbun before Prime Minister Suga announced his intention to resign, approval of Suga’s cabinet had fallen to its lowest level, at 26%; approval ratings in the mid-1920s are considered the “danger zone”. Experts had all predicted that the PLD would face great difficulties in the upcoming House of Representatives elections due in the fall with public discontent with the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis so high. .

But the situation changed after Suga announced he would not be running in the next LDP presidential race. Now that what the LDP leadership contenders say and do is in the news instead of the state of coronavirus infections, the consensus among politicians and those around them is that the number of seats that the LDP will lose at the bottom the legislative elections will be fewer than expected. “The ruling party’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has not changed, but there is this feeling that the LDP has improved. This is the atmosphere (I’m talking about),” Fujii said.

“The worst example of what the atmosphere can cause is war,” says Fujii, born in Tokyo in 1932. “Not only did this happen in Nazi Germany, but also in Japan, where the public rushed to become a member of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association. That is why the atmosphere is very dangerous. ”

Fumio Kishida (Mainichi / Kentaro Ikushima)

Fujii suffered on April 13 and 14, 1945, the incendiary bombardments of the northern part of Tokyo by American forces towards the end of the war in the Pacific. It is said that about 2,400 people died and 640,000 people suffered. “All the houses around us had been set on fire, and the next day my mother provided hot meals for our neighbors who had been set on fire and came to our house. No matter if a country wins or loses a war, members of the public are all victims. The belief that there is nothing more important than peace is something I acquired as a child, ”recalls Fujii.

The most symbolic of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s favorite projects was the constitutional review. On May 3, 2017, Abe announced a proposal to incorporate a clause in the constitution specifying the presence of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). “In post-war history, the SDF was not allowed to get involved in politics. If its presence is enshrined in the Constitution, we will certainly begin to see “military politicians”. They will have the kind of thinking to protect the state before the people, and bad states on top of that, ”Fujii said. For someone who has experienced war, this is the kind of view of the state that conflicts with his own.

Administrative and Regulatory Reform Minister Taro Kono, former LDP Policy Chief Fumio Kishida, former Home Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi and LDP Acting Executive Secretary General Seiko Noda are entered the race for the leadership of the LDP. Kono, who first landed a cabinet post under the Abe administration, has emerged in opinion polls as a favorite to be the next prime minister, but Fujii is critical of the public’s choice. “To become a cabinet member, Kono accepted Abe’s point of view on history.” Fujii has a request for all four candidates: “The way we handle the coronavirus crisis is of course very important, but I would like people who aspire to become the leader of a country to present their own point to us. of state view and history. ”

Sanae Takaichi (Mainichi / Kota Yoshida)

Prime Minister Suga has found himself in a bind over his administration’s response to the coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean opposition parties have become a realistic option on the PLD among the public. Following Suga’s announcement that he would resign, an emergency opinion poll conducted by the Kyodo news agency on September 4-5 showed that 46.0% of those polled supported the PLD, 12.3 % supported the main opposition party, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), 3.8% supported the junior coalition partner of the PLD, Komeito, and 3.6% supported the Japanese Communist Party (JCP). As it stands, even adding up the support rates for the opposition parties, it is far from that of the PLD.

Fujii began his political career as a member of the LDP, quit the party in 1993, and helped launch the Japanese Renewal Party (JRP). When he retired, he was an MP in what was then the Democratic Party of Japan (PDJ). Regarding the current state of the opposition parties, he said, “their definitive difference from the LDP is that they don’t have anyone who can generate much enthusiasm in public opinion. The CDP folks make sense, but politics don’t. always move by logic.

But even these opposition parties have won victories. In the election of the mayor of Yokohama in August, Takeharu Yamanaka, a candidate presented by the CDP and supported by parties such as the JCP and the Social Democratic Party, won by a landslide against the incumbent president, and Hachiro Okonogi, whom Prime Minister Suga had supported. “As the results of the Yokohama mayor election show, if an election is run well with cooperation (between parties), the opposition has a chance (against the PLD),” Fujii said.

Seiko Noda (Mainichi / Taro Fujii)

Those in power take advantage of the public atmosphere. There is a danger that the audience will get carried away and the mood will change in an instant. But it is also true that this atmosphere is also what moves society. There is a lot of weight in the words of Fujii, who knows Japan at war and in its post-war period.


Hirohisa Fujii was born in Tokyo in 1932. After positions as a budget examiner and others in the Ministry of Finance, Fujii first became a lawmaker when he won the 1977 election to the House of Councilors. . He left the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in 1993 and served as finance minister in the offices of Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, Tsutomu Hata and Yukio Hatoyama.

(Japanese original by Masahiro Kasai, Digital News Center)

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