'Alien' ex-PM haunts successor in Japan

Updated: 2011-02-20 09:51

By Linda Sieg (China Daily)

Twitter Facebook Myspace Yahoo! Linkedin Mixx

'Alien' ex-PM haunts successor in Japan

Never can say goodbye: Yukio Hatoyama bowed out after a short and tumultuous premiership, but some say he's lingering on the political stage like a ghost with unfinished business, 2010 file photo. [Photo/Agencies]

TOKYO - Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama appears intent on living up to his nickname as a "space alien", grabbing headlines with controversial comments that are adding to his successor's already considerable woes.

Premier Naoto Kan, his own ratings in tatters after less than a year, is trying to avoid following in Hatoyama's footsteps as the latest of the country's revolving door leaders.

Related readings:
'Alien' ex-PM haunts successor in Japan Japan's Naoto Kan hurt by party revolt
'Alien' ex-PM haunts successor in Japan Japan's pro-Ozawa coterie launch revolt within DPJ

Hatoyama, long dubbed "space alien" for his prominent eyes and his otherworldly ideas, is hardly helping Kan's cause with his criticism of the prime minister's policies as well as his own tendency toward gaffes.

Like some others in the ruling Democratic Party, Hatoyama is irritated by Kan for shifting policy gears with talk of a possible sales tax hike to fix public finances, free trade deals and focusing on the US-Japan alliance rather than Asian ties.

"It's a bit of a payback," said Jeffrey Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University's Japan campus.

The Democrats picked Hatoyama, the bouffant-haired scion of a rich family of politicians and industrialists, as its leader after then-party chief Ichiro Ozawa quit over a funding scandal ahead of the 2009 election that swept the DPJ to power.

But support for the indecisive Hatoyama sank below 20 percent after he first raised, then dashed, local hopes that a US Marines airbase could be moved off the southern island of Okinawa, unhappy host to about half of the 49,000 US forces in Japan.

Unable to find a viable alternative, Hatoyama agreed to a 2006 deal to move Futenma's functions to a less populous site on the same island, saying he had realized the US base was vital for "deterrence" against regional threats, citing the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

'Alien' ex-PM haunts successor in Japan
Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan (front) attends a rally in Tokyo February 7, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

Political waves

Last week, Hatoyama acknowledged that this explanation had been "expedient" - angering base opponents and upsetting the tiny Social Democratic Party (SDP), which left the ruling bloc over the base feud. The party is now in tough talks about helping to secure passage of a workable budget for the year from April.

Kan's Democrats need opposition help to pass bills to implement the $1 trillion budget because they lack a majority in parliament's upper house, which can block legislation. Hatoyama, 64, had promised to retire from politics after stepping down as premier, but quickly reversed that decision late last year in what domestic media dubbed yet another flip-flop.

When Ozawa challenged Kan in a party leadership vote in September, Hatoyama first appeared to back the prime minister then - after trying to avert a collision between the two - threw his support behind Ozawa's ultimately failed bid.

He has since joined Ozawa in criticizing proposed changes to the 2009 party platform, charging that Kan is reneging on promises to put more cash in consumers' hands to boost growth.

Commentator Hirotaka Futatsuki notes that the ex-premier has been unhappy with Kan's push to punish Ozawa for a funding scandal in which he has been indicted. Ozawa has denied wrongdoing.

Hatoyama has also dipped his oar into diplomacy at a time of a heated territorial row with Russia, suggesting the government put off seeking the simultaneous return by Russia of four disputed islands and trying instead for "two plus alpha".

"He's like whack-a-mole," Kingston said. "You whack him down and figure he is gone and he pops up again ... He hasn't done himself or his legacy any favors - or Kan."

Hatoyama's refusal to fade gracefully from public view risks further damaging the Democrats' image with voters already doubtful whether the party has the right stuff to govern.


   Previous Page 1 2 Next Page  


Spring Festival

The Spring Festival is the most important traditional festival for family reunions.

Top 10

A summary of the major events both inside and outside China.

A role model

Alimjan Halik had been selected as the "Cyberspace Personality Who Moved the Hearts of the Chinese in 2010".

All about the Year of the Rabbit
President Hu visits the US
Ancient life