Rudderless ship

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 February, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 February, 2001, 12:00am
 

Much as they might wish to see the departure of their blunder-prone Prime Minister, Yoshiro Mori's colleagues in Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) will not be calling for his resignation any time soon.


Their eyes are fixed on upper-house elections in July, when the party expects to lose seats due to the multitude of scandals, gaffes and economic mismanagement that has characterised the Mori regime. The prospect of Mr Mori stepping down means that whoever takes over will get the blame if the party makes a disastrous showing in the polls. That is hardly an enticing prospect for even the most ambitious would-be leader.


Yesterday, a senior member of his party, Masakuni Murakami, resigned over his links to KSD, a small-business foundation alleged to have given large sums of money to the LDP. Three other personally chosen ministers have had to resign because of scandals.


So the party fragments without any natural successor for the post or any mechanism for the removal of a Prime Minister due to lack of popularity. For the Prime Minister, he may be able to stay to press on with his pledge to revive the economy without too much opposition from within his own ranks. For his coalition partners, however, it is a different story. The New Komeito party has to contest local elections in Tokyo in June, and their LDP links are doing a lot of damage to that campaign. They want to see him gone and are looking for an honourable way to oust him.


Continuing his round of golf after news reached him of the sinking of a fishing trawler by a United States submarine off Hawaii earlier this month clinched Mr Mori's declining reputation. His 10-month rule has averaged one major gaffe a month, earning him the lowest ratings ever achieved by any prime minister.


While some senior politicians look for ways to persuade him to go before the March budget, others counsel patience until the July election. But that, too, might be a miscalculation if more blunders lie ahead. The LDP has ruled continuously since 1955, but almost single-handedly, Mr Mori is costing the party its electoral base.


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Rudderless ship

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