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Okinawan Lawmakers Assess Mori, New Hopefuls

Date Posted: 2001-04-20

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is scheduled to hold its long-awaited presidential election on April 24 to select the successor to the unpopular Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori. A new prime minister to succeed Mori will be chosen two days later on April 26.

As for Mori’s successor, the overwhelming favorite among Okinawan LDP lawmakers is former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto who is currently serving as the minister in charge of administrative reform and the head of the Okinawa Development Agency. He is viewed as being “friendly” towards Okinawa. The only exception is Mikio Shimoji, who is viewed as favoring Junichiro Koizumi, the favorite among younger politicians.

Mori had agreed to step down after he had come under increasing pressure to do so after a series of scandals and gaffes had driven his popularity to all-time lows for any prime minister.

Okinawan politicians commenting his announcement are divided almost to a man along party lines. While members of the ruling coalition try their best to find some positive aspects of Mori’s tenure, the opposition does not mince their words when they say that Mori’s resignation was long overdue.

While supporters of the LDP and other ruling parties say that, from the Okinawan perspective, Mori made a good job in conducting the Okinawa G8 Summit successfully, the opponents say that he was “The worst prime minister Japan has ever had,” and are quick to wish that the voters will remember that when the House of Councilors election comes by in July.

Seiji Nakamura, an Okinawan House of Representatives member representing LDP says that Mori at least tried hard. “I have a position of a Vice Minister in the cabinet and so have been able to follow Mori close. He is a very hard worker and tried hard to solve many problems. I think the press has given him much worse name than he deserves.”

Mikio Shimoji, LDP, says that “Mori was good for Okinawa, not only because of the summit, but because he continued the policies set up by his predecessor Keizo Obuchi. But I must admit that he did not do his public relations very well, and many people lost their trust in politics and politicians. Whoever replaces him should work hard to win back that trust.”

Another Okinawan lawmaker representing the LPD, Chiken Kakazu also gives Mori a credit for trying. “He did very good job is mapping the policy of promoting IT industries, making the Okinawa Summit a success and so forth. But he had some very bad people around him who mongered rumors and were quick to blame on him whenever he made the slightest mistake.”

Seiken Akamine, a lower house member representing the Communist Party of Japan does not see anything good with Yoshio Mori. “His tenure was filled with scandals. He didn’t do anything about problems with SACO, and even less about Okinawa’s problems with the U.S. bases here. Of course he had to resign, but even that he did too late. I have never seen a politician who is as indifferent to people’s opinion as he is.”

Socialist Kantoku Teruya, an Upper House member says that Mori did the right thing when he resigned. “The government was completely empty and got nothing done. Mori opened his mouth in wrong places and wrong times. The only thing he was good at was to get his cabinet involved in one scandal after another.”

Former Vice Governor Mitsuko Tomon, a socialist member of the House of Representatives agrees with Teruya. “We have a whole bunch of scandals that are far from being resolved. The liberal Democratic Party as a whole has a bad character. During the past few months they have managed to create so much disgust among ordinary people against their government and all politicians that that in itself is almost a crime. Mori should have resigned long time ago.”

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