Japanese Prime Minister Resigns


    By Matthew Allen

    Some people say it is his wavy gray hair and stylish suits. Others think of his uncanny resemblance to actor Richard Gere.

    There are a variety of traits people associate with former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi. But in spite of his charismatic disposition, many people who have followed his career think he”s made some poor political decisions.

    “I remember when he first became prime minister and everyone thought he was so handsome and strong,” said Satomi Hasegawa, a Japanese citizen currently living in Utah. “Little by little, though, we became disappointed by the things that he promised to do but didn”t do.”

    This sentiment seems to be the general consensus among critics of Koizumi: that he was all talk and no action.

    “Koizumi has been effective in some things, controversial in others and ineffective in others,” said Ray Christensen, chair of the Political Science Department at BYU. “He promised that he was going to do a lot of things that he didn”t end up doing.”

    Christensen, who has studied the Japanese political system extensively, said he is not sad that Koizumi is finished as prime minister.

    “It”s not like George Washington is leaving office,” Christensen said. “Koizumi”s gotten an ”A” on some things and a ”D” on others.”

    After five years in office, Koizumi stepped down as prime minister Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2006, and Shinzo Abe of the Liberal Democratic Party was elected as the new Japanese leader.

    Tsutomu Matsuzawa, a student from the Aichi region of Japan, said he thinks Koizumi has done a good job, but he is eager to see what the new prime minister will do.

    “I like Abe and think he will do a good job, but I think it will be hard for him at first because of some of Koizumi”s decisions,” Matsuzawa said.

    Both Matsuzawa and Christensen referenced Koizumi”s visits to the Yasukuni war shrine and the resulting strain on relations between Japan and China as one of Koizumi”s major political mistakes.

    “He hasn”t handled that well at all,” said Christensen of Koizumi”s visits.

    Christensen said where Koizumi erred was not in his desire to pay respect to fallen soldiers, but in the fact that he visited the shrine in his capacity as prime minister.

    “It makes it worse if he goes there as the prime minister of Japan, but if he goes for personal reasons that makes a big difference,” Christensen said.

    While Hasegawa and Christensen said they think Koizumi could have followed through with his promises a little better, Kenichi Ikeda, a businessman living in Tokyo, said he thinks Koizumi has lived up to the hype.

    “I really like Koizumi and have agreed with his policies, especially his efforts in rectifying the economy and promoting postal privatization,” Ikeda said. “I am sad to see him go, but I think that Abe will do a good job, considering the Liberal Democratic Party is backing him up.”

    Ultimately, it appears that the only crucial difference between Koizumi and his successor is their level of charisma.

    “Abe is going to be able to do even less than Koizumi,” Christensen said. “He”s just not as flashy or charismatic.”

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