Japan’s deputy PM Taro Aso calls festivalgoers ‘mad’ in latest verbal blunder

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 7:27pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 September, 2017, 10:44pm

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso used a derogatory expression for people with mental disorders on Saturday while giving a campaign speech for a Liberal Democratic Party candidate contesting a by-election in western Japan.

Aso used the Japanese term “kichigai”, or “mad-like”, to describe people heavily involved in local festivals.

“Those who work hard in an election are people who participate eagerly in festivals,” Aso said in Saijo, Ehime Prefecture, noting that a local festival would be held there soon. “In my [constituency] a festival is held in July and there would be mostly mad-like people at this time,” Aso said.

His latest verbal gaffe came days after he suggested Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had good intentions.

Taro Aso was speaking at a seminar for his faction in the LDP on Tuesday when he said: “I don’t question a politician’s motives; it is delivering results that matter. Hitler, who killed millions of people, was no good, even if his intentions had been good.”

Aso later said his remark was “inappropriate” and he would like to retract it and regretted having caused a misunderstanding. He said he meant that Hitler was a bad leader with bad intentions.

“If you take my comment in its entirety, it is clear that my perception about Hitler is extremely negative and that Hitler was wrong in his motivation,” he said in a statement issued by the finance ministry.

Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said after Aso retracted his statement that the deputy prime minister “should make his own explanation when the time comes”.

It was not the first time Aso and other Japanese politicians have made casual references to Hitler and the Nazis.

In 2013 Aso drew international condemnation after he said Tokyo should learn from Nazi Germany when it comes to constitutional reform.

And in 2008, he was criticised for comparing the tactics of the Democratic Party of Japan to those of Nazis in 1930s Germany.

Aso – whose previous comments include criticising women who don’t have children and saying old people should “hurry up and die” to save health care costs – later retracted the comments but refused to quit.

Earlier this year, Bank of Japan board member Yutaka Harada praised Hitler’s economic policies even though they allowed him to do “horrible things”.

Aso is also the finance minister in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet and served as Japan’s prime minister in 2008-2009.

A House of Representatives by-election is slated for October in Ehime following the death of LDP lower house lawmaker Toru Shiraishi, who belonged to Aso’s faction. Shiraishi’s son Hiroki has become the party’s official candidate.

Additional reporting by Associated Press, Agence France-Presse