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More gloom: the rollback of liberal democracy
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
Posts: 896
Location: Narita, Japan

PostPosted: Mon Jan 27, 2014 7:32 am    Post subject: More gloom: the rollback of liberal democracy Reply with quote

I claim no expertise in political science, but it seems something interesting, and disturbing, is going on in Japan's corridors of power. My interpretation is that the coterie controlling the Diet believes liberal democracy has no place in Japan, and they on a program of returning Japan to something like a pre-War authoritarian government.

What do you think? Am I a loony conspiracy theorist? Or am I seeing what's long been obvious to the politically clued-up. And does it matter? Maybe "A strong state supported by a patriotic people" is exactly what Japan needs?

Enough from me, your favourite Chicken-Little. Here's the evidence. I look forward to the discussion.

1. Abe yes-men appointed as heads of powerful "independent" institutions

This goes beyond "pushing for your preferred candidate". In these three cases, Abe has either pushed aside the incumbent ahead of schedule, or appointed someone whose only qualification appears to be loyalty to Abe.

1.1 NHK

The new head of NHK (which was never exactly a hotbed of anti-establishment rebels) affirms that he will do as he is told. Quote from BBC: Japan NHK boss Momii sparks WWII 'comfort women' row:
Quote:
Mr Momii said it "would not do for NHK to say left when the government says right".

Mr Momii is a businessman with no previous broadcast experience.

Insiders at NHK say his appointment was an attempt by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to bring the national broadcaster to heel, our correspondent reports.

1.2 The Cabinet Legislation Bureau

Quotes from Japan Times: For ‘no war’ Article 9, any reinterpretation will do. It's worth reading the whole article, but here are some key quotes:
Quote:
The CLB has the final word when it comes to interpreting the famous “no war” provisions of Article 9

Quote:
making Yamamoto [the previous head of the CLB] a justice probably has the merit of rendering his views on this part of the Constitution harmless. It also opened the door for Abe to install in the CLB a more pliable replacement in the form of Ichiro Komatsu...

Komatsu’s appointment is not just significant because of his take on the Constitution; it also represents another salvo in the long battle by elected politicians to bring the powerful bureaucracy to heel.

1.3 The Bank of Japan
Quote from Bloomberg: Shirakawa Accelerates BOJ Exit as Abe Presses for Stimulus:
Quote:
Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa will step down on March 19, almost three weeks before his term was due, accelerating a leadership transition that may aid Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s campaign for ...

See also Abe Nominates Haruhiko Kuroda as Next Bank of Japan Governor.

2. "New constitution"

You've probably heard about the much-debated revision to the "no-war" Article 9. (Although the takeover of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau may make that unnecessary.) But have you seen the other proposals?

This article sets it out in detail. It's well worth reading, but if you don't have the time, they basically want to transform the constitution into a very different document. Rather than restricting the powers of government, it emphasises the duties of citizens. In particular:

* the first amendment will make it much easier for the government to pass the rest of its proposed amendments

* most human rights will have vaguely worded "public order" exemptions

* the cabinet will have the power to suspend the Diet and pass new laws by decree for 6 months

3. Unpopular new secrecy laws

Against their wishes of (30% in favour, 50% against) the government gave itself the power to hide the truth from its own people.

Quotes from Financial Times: Japan passes controversial secrecy law
Quote:
The uproar over the bill, which gives government agencies broad new powers to classify secrets and toughens penalties for officials who leak them, has eroded what had been unusually high support ratings for Mr Abe’s year-old administration.

Quote:
The swift passage of the bill – it made its way through parliament in less than a month, an unusually short period in Japan – highlights the forceful hold over Japanese politics exercised by Mr Abe after a half-decade of weak and shortlived administrations.

Quote from The New York Times: Japan's Dangerous Anachronism:
Quote:
Just before the passage of the law, the secretary general of the governing Liberal Democratic Party, Shigeru Ishiba, likened those legally demonstrating against the state secrecy law to terrorists in his blog on Nov. 29. This callous disregard of freedom of speech greatly raised suspicion of what the Abe government really has in mind.

4. The "Nazi route"

I'm not sure how seriously to take this, but I'll put it out there for comment.

BBC: Japan should follow Nazi route on revising constitution, minister says
Quote:
Aso drew outrage for saying Japan should learn from how the Nazi party stealthily changed Germany's constitution before the second world war before anyone realised it
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fat_chris



Joined: 10 Sep 2003
Posts: 2601
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan, PRC

PostPosted: Mon Jan 27, 2014 9:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pitarou,

I actually welcome your Chicken Little-type postings ( Very Happy). I am in China now but I am considering my next step and the nutty, ridiculous, only half-sane idea of returning to Japan has occurred to me. Your posts come at the right time for me as I have to consider all factors of the equation if I am really going to try to make a move to Japan for the long-term happen.

I left Japan in early August 2012 so it is good for me to hear what is going on in Abe-Land at the moment. Needless to say and perhaps somewhat irrelevant, but the Chinese are none too pleased with the Abe government. Makes for interesting viewing on the six o'clock evening news here.

Keep 'em coming!

Cool

Warm regards,
fat_chris
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Cool Teacher



Joined: 18 May 2009
Posts: 856
Location: Here, There and Everywhere! :D

PostPosted: Mon Jan 27, 2014 10:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If your Chicken Little, then let me be Big Chicken! Very Happy

I think Abe has ciriticized this guy now and it seems everybody hates him. Abe said he should step donw! Cool

Yeah, I know it is hippocrysy but at least Abe is saying he is against it. However, Hashimoto said he didn't know what's the big deal. Rolling Eyes

Anyway, I think and hope that these days Japan is becoming more open about the past. Smile

Cool
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
Posts: 896
Location: Narita, Japan

PostPosted: Mon Jan 27, 2014 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool Teacher wrote:
If your Chicken Little, then let me be Big Chicken! Very Happy

I think Abe has ciriticized this guy now and it seems everybody hates him. Abe said he should step donw! Cool

Yeah, I know it is hippocrysy but at least Abe is saying he is against it. However, Hashimoto said he didn't know what's the big deal. Rolling Eyes

Anyway, I think and hope that these days Japan is becoming more open about the past. Smile

Cool

Sorry, you've lost me. Are you talking about the Mayor of Osaka?
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Cool Teacher



Joined: 18 May 2009
Posts: 856
Location: Here, There and Everywhere! :D

PostPosted: Mon Jan 27, 2014 12:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pitarou wrote:
Cool Teacher wrote:
If your Chicken Little, then let me be Big Chicken! Very Happy

I think Abe has ciriticized this guy now and it seems everybody hates him. Abe said he should step donw! Cool

Yeah, I know it is hippocrysy but at least Abe is saying he is against it. However, Hashimoto said he didn't know what's the big deal. Rolling Eyes

Anyway, I think and hope that these days Japan is becoming more open about the past. Smile

Cool

Sorry, you've lost me. Are you talking about the Mayor of Osaka?


Yeah, him. He said similar things before. Shocked

Cool
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rxk22



Joined: 19 May 2010
Posts: 908

PostPosted: Mon Jan 27, 2014 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree, seems as though Abe, though he actually gets stuff done, is ending up like Putin. I do not like the trajectory that this is taking Japan.
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steki47



Joined: 20 Apr 2008
Posts: 658
Location: BFE Inaka

PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 5:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

rxk22 wrote:
I agree, seems as though Abe, though he actually gets stuff done, is ending up like Putin. I do not like the trajectory that this is taking Japan.


I view liberal democracy as a product of Northern European society (Angles-Saxons-Jutes) and wonder if it is applicable or feasible in other cultures than lean towards collectivism and authoritarianism.

Certain Western countries pushed democracy on non-Western societies in the past (still do at times). Perhaps as American/Western power fades globally, what we are seeing is a return to more traditional or indigineous societies.

Russia is a good example. Perhaps the new cold war between China and Japan will bring it out as well.

Not my personal ideal, just trying to assess.
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
Posts: 896
Location: Narita, Japan

PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 7:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

steki47 wrote:
I view liberal democracy as a product of Northern European society (Angles-Saxons-Jutes) and wonder if it is applicable or feasible in other cultures than lean towards collectivism and authoritarianism.

...

Not my personal ideal, just trying to assess.
I think that's how Abe et al. view the matter, too. I suspect they think of it like this: The grand experiment in liberal democracy in Japan has failed. The people just aren't ready to make those kinds of decisions for themselves. Time for the real leaders to assert themselves and get this country back on track.

EDIT I hope it's clear, now, that the above "quote" isn't what somebody actually said. Sorry about the confusion, folks.

So if we can take that as given, I have two questions:

1. How far are they going to go with this? Where is Japan going to be on the Economist Democracy Index in 5 years time?

2. When they have the power, what do they intend to do with it? Do they just want to implement the policies they've already talked about? Maybe sweep away some of the vested interests that are currently stopping Abe's "third arrow"? Or do they have other plans that they'd rather not discuss now?

I don't think we can assume that the LDP have revealed all their intentions. I'm sure you remember their volte-face on the TPP once the election was taken care of. And, given the sufficient power, the unthinkable suddenly becomes all too possible. Things like nuclear armament (for peaceful research purposes, of course) or raiding the national pension fund like Poland did.


Last edited by Pitarou on Tue Jan 28, 2014 10:42 am; edited 1 time in total
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steki47



Joined: 20 Apr 2008
Posts: 658
Location: BFE Inaka

PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 7:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting Abe quote, I missed that.

I also wonder how the US will react if Japan moves away from a democratic model. Or how the Japanese government think the US will react.

Journalists have used the term "cold war" to describe what is unfolding.
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Cool Teacher



Joined: 18 May 2009
Posts: 856
Location: Here, There and Everywhere! :D

PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

steki47 wrote:
rxk22 wrote:
I agree, seems as though Abe, though he actually gets stuff done, is ending up like Putin. I do not like the trajectory that this is taking Japan.


I view liberal democracy as a product of Northern European society (Angles-Saxons-Jutes) and wonder if it is applicable or feasible in other cultures than lean towards collectivism and authoritarianism.

Certain Western countries pushed democracy on non-Western societies in the past (still do at times). Perhaps as American/Western power fades globally, what we are seeing is a return to more traditional or indigineous societies.

Russia is a good example. Perhaps the new cold war between China and Japan will bring it out as well.

Not my personal ideal, just trying to assess.


I think that soudns a bit racialist. Surprised

What was the Jute's contribution to liberal democracy???? Confused

I think Japan used to have some ideas about democracy after the Meiji period but then got taken over by the military. I think Japan can have liberla democracy, and people want it. Cool
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Cool Teacher



Joined: 18 May 2009
Posts: 856
Location: Here, There and Everywhere! :D

PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 8:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pitarou wrote:
I think that's how Abe et al. view the matter, too. "The grand experiment in liberal democracy in Japan has failed. The people just aren't ready to make those kinds of decisions for themselves. Time for the real leaders to assert themselves and get this country back on track."


I cant find that quote online. Did you make it up? Confused

Cool
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
Posts: 896
Location: Narita, Japan

PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool Teacher wrote:
I cant find that quote online. Did you make it up?
Yes. Sorry. I didn't meant to suggest they actually said that! I was just describing what I believe to be the thinking behind these moves to consolidate power.
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
Posts: 896
Location: Narita, Japan

PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 10:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool Teacher wrote:
steki47 wrote:
rxk22 wrote:
I agree, seems as though Abe, though he actually gets stuff done, is ending up like Putin. I do not like the trajectory that this is taking Japan.
I view liberal democracy as a product of Northern European society (Angles-Saxons-Jutes) and wonder if it is applicable or feasible in other cultures than lean towards collectivism and authoritarianism...
I think that soudns a bit racialist. Surprised
Depends on your view of how "sticky" culture is.
Quote:
I think Japan used to have some ideas about democracy after the Meiji period but then got taken over by the military. I think Japan can have liberla democracy, and people want it. Cool
So are you optimistic that the people found some kind of voice over the secrecy bill, or despondent that the Diet went ahead and passed it anyway.
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steki47



Joined: 20 Apr 2008
Posts: 658
Location: BFE Inaka

PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool Teacher wrote:


I think that soudns a bit racialist. Surprised

What was the Jute's contribution to liberal democracy???? Confused

I think Japan used to have some ideas about democracy after the Meiji period but then got taken over by the military. I think Japan can have liberla democracy, and people want it. Cool


I was being historical. Don't see the racism.

The Jante Law (sorry, mistake) had a strong egalitarian code that is more characteristic of hunter-gatherer groups as opposed to the aristocratic Indo-European model.

The Greeks may have created democracy but the Scandinavian Althing was far more democratic in nature.

Yes, I omitted the Taisho Democracy. It was short-lived and I wonder if it was a sign of the Occidental Fever the Japanese developed in the Meiji.

Finally, several Asian thinkers have argued against democracy, including arguing that it is incompatible with Asian culture. Check out Amy Chua, Lee Kwan Yueh or Mahammad Mahathir. Or ask the Chinese. I am undecided myself.
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Cool Teacher



Joined: 18 May 2009
Posts: 856
Location: Here, There and Everywhere! :D

PostPosted: Tue Jan 28, 2014 2:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pitarou wrote:
Cool Teacher wrote:
steki47 wrote:
rxk22 wrote:
I agree, seems as though Abe, though he actually gets stuff done, is ending up like Putin. I do not like the trajectory that this is taking Japan.
I view liberal democracy as a product of Northern European society (Angles-Saxons-Jutes) and wonder if it is applicable or feasible in other cultures than lean towards collectivism and authoritarianism...
I think that soudns a bit racialist. Surprised
Depends on your view of how "sticky" culture is.
Quote:
I think Japan used to have some ideas about democracy after the Meiji period but then got taken over by the military. I think Japan can have liberla democracy, and people want it. Cool
So are you optimistic that the people found some kind of voice over the secrecy bill, or despondent that the Diet went ahead and passed it anyway.


I dont know enough abot it I admit but the parliament system is similar to the UK which means that it doens't matter how many people in the public disagree, if parliament passes it it goes through. Interesting will be what the public say at the election polls. Wink

But anyway, some of the hot talk sounds a little bit like how people talked about the Patriot Act and later on about Bradley Manning. I think there are many similar things there. Also later on in the UK there were more laws for the press coming in. Confused

These days people have calmed down about the scare stroies of no more democracy in US and all the conspirac theories. I think that things will not be any worse in Japan. Cool
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