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Inhae reads the news: September 2020

Note: I haven’t been able to translate all the extracts I chose by lack of time. I also found the articles rather difficult to read and quite long for most of them. I got discouraged more than once, not being able to understand the articles by simply reading them. Even after looking up words, some paragraphs remained obscure. Either I misunderstand grammatical patterns, either they hint at references I don’t know, or I just don’t understand what the author is trying to say. In any case, I still have a lot of work to do before I am able to read the news in Japanese…

Topic 1: Abe’s resignation

The biggest news of this month is of course Abe’s resignation as Prime Minister.

Let’s first study articles of August 29th, the day following Abe announcing his resignation for health reasons.

Yomiuri: 首相退陣表明 危機対処へ政治空白を避けよ
Sankei: 首相の退陣表明 速やかに自民党総裁選を 「安倍政治」を発射台にせよ
Mainichi: 安倍首相が辞任表明 行き詰まった末の幕引き
Asahi: 最長政権 突然の幕へ 「安倍政治」の弊害 清算の時
Tokyo: 首相退陣表明 「安倍政治」の転換こそ

Useful vocabulary:

辞任じにんresignation
持病じびょうa chronic illness
潰瘍性大腸炎かいようせいだいちょうえんUlcerative colitis
退陣たいじんresignation.
Apparently, this word is mainly used for the military (decamp) or for the Prime Minister (resign from the Cabinet, leave the Cabinet).
総裁選そうさいせんA presidential election.
出馬しゅつばPut oneself forward as a candidate
総裁候補そうさいこうほA candidate for president (of the LDP), A Prime Minister candidate.

All newspapers are hoping for rapid elections to avoid any political turmoil:

Yomiuri: 政権を担う自民党は、早急に新たなリーダーを選び、混乱を回避する必要がある。

Given that the LDP is leading the state, it is necessary to choose a new leader rapidly to avoid political turmoil.

Sankei: 自民党は国政の混乱を最小限にするため、速やかに総裁選挙を実施し、新たなリーダーを決めてもらいたい。

The LDP must organise elections rapidly and decide on a new leader in order to minimise political confusion.

Mainichi also says that the election should happen as soon as possible but warns that it should not be held behind closed doors:

ロナの危機が続いていることを考えれば、迅速に選ぶ必要がある。ただし、密室での協議で決めるようなことはしてはならない。

Given that we are still in the coronavirus crisis, it is necessary to choose a new leader rapidly. However, deliberations must not happen behind closed doors.

Asahi similarly hope for a transparent election:

全国の党員・党友が参加し、国民の目にもみえる総裁選を実施すべきだ。

We must hold elections that include the participation of all party members and party supporters and that are transparent to the public.

Tokyo goes further in this direction, saying that the public has a right to know about each candidate’s position:

国民に開かれた論戦にすべきは当然だろう。各候補は新型コロナ対策など緊急を要する課題にどう取り組むか、自らの理念や政策を丁寧に語るべきだ。

Obviously, there must be political debate accessible to the people. Each candidate must explain in details his ideas and measures to deal with burning issues like the coronavirus.

All newspapers also go through Abe’s legacy, but, as you can imagine, conservative newspapers and left-wing newspapers don’t talk about the same legacy. To talk about Abe’s achievements, Sankei uses the word “remarkable” (著しい) and Yomiuri the word “great” (大きい).

On the other end of the spectrum, Mainichi talks about “negative legacy” (負の遺産) and Tokyo says that Abe’s government has created 統治機構の根腐れ.

Mainichi goes through the scandals that struck during Abe’s government and give them as example of this “negative legacy”. Similarly, Asahi lists a series of scandals during Abe’s government such as the Cherry Blossom Party or various affairs relative to politicians. Sankei only mentions the Mori-Kake scandals and Yomiuri does not mention any affair at all.

All newspapers agree to say that Abe government has been “stable”. In Japanese, the word 安定 is the one usually used to refer to Abe’s two terms as Prime Minister.

I find very interesting to compare the formulations used by newspapers to talk about the political stability brought by Abe. Both Yomiuri and Sankei state the fact plainly 安定した国政運営だった and 不安定だった政治を立て直したことである.

Contrary to firm endings like だった and ことである, Mainichi and Asahi only acknowledge this fact. Talking about Abe government bringing back stability to politics, Mainichi says that it is 事実だろう and Asahi: 間違いあるまい:

Both Yomiuri and Sankei state that there was no other choice for Abe than to step down if his health condition has worsened. Yomiuri says: 病気が原因ではやむを得まい and also mentions that Abe has overwork might be the reason why Abe’s illness worsened.

Mainichi also recognises that his resignation might be inevitable (they use the same expression as Yomiuri: やむを得ない), but they note that it happens at the worst time and will create confusion: 任期途中の辞任で混乱を生んだことは残念だ。

Asahi points out that Abe’s resignation happens at a time where the government has lost the public’s confidence.

退陣の直接の理由は、わずか1年で政権投げ出しと批判された第1次政権の時と同じ持病である。しかし、長期政権のおごりや緩みから、政治的にも、政策的にも行き詰まり、民心が離れつつあったのも事実である。

Tokyo opens its editorial with: 持病の潰瘍性大腸炎の再発が理由だという。健康悪化が理由ならやむを得ない。

I might be mistaken, but to me this formulation sounds like the author thinks that there might be other untold reasons. The use of という in the first sentence shows that the author just quotes the reason given by Abe but does not take it for granted. Similarly, the use of なら also hints that the author is not convinced that the reason given is the real reason. Tokyo’s sentence 健康悪化が理由ならやむを得ない looks similar to Yomiuri’s 病気が原因ではやむを得ない, but using で (because of/due to) or なら (if it is true that/if it is the case that) makes a difference.

Finally, it is interesting to contrast Sankei’s wish that Abe’s successor go on with Abe’s good results:

自民党総裁選に立候補する政治家は、「安倍政治」の成果と方向性を尊重することが望ましい。

We wish that the candidates will value the direction and results of Abe government.

And Tokyo’s wish that Abe’s successor will not go on the same line of actions:

後継首相は、こうした憲法を軽んじ、統治機構の根腐れを生んだ「安倍政治」を、どう転換するのかも問われることになるだろう。

The question is now how will Abe’s successor depart from Abe’s politics who rotted the political system and treat the Constitution lightly.

Topic 2: Election won’t include party members

Information about the upcoming election to select Abe’s successor has come out on Tuesday.

On Tuesday 1st, the LDP announced that the election for Abe’s successor will follow an emergency procedure according to which only members of the Diet and some local representatives will vote.

In normal circumstances, members of the party would vote to elect the president of the LDP alongside Diet members. The 394 Diet members would receive half of the voting power and the more than 1 million party members would receive the other half.

However, in order to avoid a political vacuum in this time of crisis, only the 394 Diet members and 141 representatives from the the 47 prefectures will be able to vote. Arguments given are that organising a general election would take up to 2 months.

This is likely to disadvantage Shigeru Ishiba, popular among local voters but unpopular among lawmakers for his critical position toward Abe’s politics. On the contrary, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is in good position, having the support of five factions inside the LDP, including 細田派, the most influential one.

Candidates are:

菅義偉: Yoshihide Suga. He is Chief Cabinet Secretary 内閣官房長官 (ないかくかんぼうちょうかん). Articles usually refer to him as 菅官房長官.

岸田文雄: Fumio Kishida. He is the Chairman of the Policy Research Council 政務調査会長 (せいむちょうさかいちょう). Articles refer to him as 岸田政調会長

石破茂: Shigeru Ishiba. As Ishiba does not have a particular function at present, he is referred to as “former Secretary General (of the LDP)” 石破茂元幹事長. Interestingly, articles in English refer to him rather as “former Defence Minister”.

Yomiuri: 自民党総裁選 政策論争をなおざりにするな
Sankei: 自民党総裁選 政策論争が何より重要だ
Mainichi: 総裁選で党員投票せず 地方の声をなぜ聞かない
Asahi: 自民党総裁選 「内向きの論理」優先だ
Tokyo: 自民党総裁選 国民が見えていますか

自民党じみんとうLiberal Democratic Party.
The complete name is 自由民主党 (じゆうみんしゅとう)
総裁選そうさいせんA presidential election.
党大会とうたいかいA Party conference
議員総会ぎいんそうかいGeneral Assembly of Diet members.
両院議員総会 means General Assembly of Diet members of both houses.
国会議員こっかいぎいんMember of Parliament
A Political Faction.
Among the most influential factions, the Hosoda faction (細田派), the Aso faction (麻生派) and the Nikai faction (二階派) will support Yoshihide Suga. These three factions alone represent 200 lawmakers. It is much more than Kishida’s own faction (47) or Ishiba’s one (19). No wonder that, with rank-and-file members cut off from the election, the result will not be a surprise. (source: Wikipedia)
無派閥むはばつNot belonging to any faction.
While not belonging to any faction himself, Yoshihide Suga will receive the support of five factions.

Interestingly, all newspapers, including conservative ones, have a critical position towards the decision.

The least critic is Yomiuri, who acknowledges the necessity to speed up the process:

政治空白を最小限にするため、後継選出を急ぐのは当然である。

It is a necessity to speed up the election in order to reduce the political vacuum to the minimum.

But Yomiuri is asking that candidates introduce their policy to the public, for the sake of the 141 voters from local prefectures. If elections are to be carried out as decided, voters from local prefectures represent one fourth of the votes. Candidates need to present their policy to these voters:

この方式でも、地方票は全体の4分の1を占める。執行部は、都道府県連に独自の党員投票を行うよう促す方針だ。その判断材料とするためにも、可能な限り候補同士の討論を実施し、主張の違いを明らかにする必要がある。

While asking for more debate and discussions, Yomiuri does not question the reasons behind the decision, and says that it is normal due to the present circumstances.

Sankei seems to be siding with those asking for an election process that would include all the party members.

100万人以上いる党員・党友の投票を実施しないのは残念である。多くの国民は自民党に属してはいないが、党員投票があれば、総裁選や政治への関心が一層高まる。

It is regrettable that the LDP does not hold elections that would include the more than one million party members and party supporters. Even if a lot of citizens do not belong to the LDP, if members do vote, more attention will be brought to the elections and politics in general.

And Sankei is calling for a public debate:

告示から投開票まで短期間になるが、総裁選で何より大切なことは何か。それは、候補者が国民の前で政見を競い合うことだ。

There is only little time between the announce and the vote, but what is the most important in general elections? It is that the candidates compete with each other before the public for their political view.

Mainichi points out that Shigeru Ishiba who received a strong support among local voters during the last elections, will be disadvantaged. They conclude:

派閥の都合で決めようとしているとみられても仕方がない。

No wonder people think that the winner will be decided based on factions influence.

It also seems obvious that Yoshihide Suga, who receives the support of the strongest factions, will win the race:

だが、既に首相の出身派閥である最大勢力の細田派、第2派閥の麻生派など主要派閥は雪崩を打って菅氏支持を打ち出している。菅氏の優位は揺るがない情勢だ。

For Asahi, the situation is not urgent to the point of depriving party members from their rights:

しかし、党員らの重要な権利である投票権を奪ってまで、新総裁選びを急がねばならない状況にはみえない。

The Diet is closed at the moment, there is no new outbreak of coronavirus infection and Abe has said that he would go on with his functions until a successor has been chosen. For Asahi, there will be no “political vacuum” as stated.

Asahi even mentions that the real purpose behind this choice could have been to cut off the road to Shigeru Ishiba and secure the position for Yoshihide Suga.

結局のところ、党員投票を避けるのは、過去の総裁選の地方票で善戦した石破氏の力をそぎ、国会議員の合従連衡で帰趨(きすう)を決めたいという思惑からではないのか。

相変わらずの派閥主導を繰り返すのか、自由闊達(かったつ)な論争を国民の前で繰り広げるのか、政権党の責任もまた、厳しく問われている。

For Tokyo too, things also look like the real purpose was to restrain Ishiba’s chances:

政権主流派に批判的な石破氏の当選を阻止する狙いがあると勘繰られても仕方があるまい。

Topic 3: Yoshihide Suga, new president of the LDP

As mentionned, Suga’s victory was not a surprise. On Saturday 12th (two days before the elections), the three candidates have presented their policy concerning the anti-coronavirus measures and economic measures at the Japan National Press Club. Reporting on the public debate, Yomiuri and Mainichi only focus on what Suga said, clearly showing that the election are just a formality.

The election took place on Monday 14th. I read the editorials of the 15th, but I must admit that they are quite difficult to understand. I just extracted some information:

Yomiuri: 自民総裁に菅氏 社会に安心感を取り戻したい
Sankei: 菅政権誕生へ 危機に立つ首相の自覚を 派閥にとらわれぬ人事を貫け
Mainichi: 自民新総裁に菅氏 継承ありきの異様な圧勝
Asahi: 菅新総裁選出 総括なき圧勝の危うさ
Tokyo: 自民総裁に菅氏 「表紙」だけを替えても

Yoshihide Suga mainly said that he will continue in the same line than Abe. While continuity might be better than brisk change in this time of crisis, assuming the role of Prime Minister (the LDP has such a majority in the Diet that the head of the party becomes the Prime Minister) requires a solid policy of one’s own.

This idea seems well summed up by Tokyo’s formulation:

菅氏の言動を振り返ると、安倍政治の「継承」を強く訴えるあまり、「前進」に関する発信が極めて乏しい。

Looking back at M. Suga’s speeches, [we notice that] he was so focused on talking about Abe government’s “continuation” that he barely mentioned any “new” policy.

The two words generally used are 継続・けいぞく (continuation) and 前進・ぜんしん (progress, advance, improvement). I chose to translate this last one with “new” because it seems better if we use it in opposition to “continuation”.

This is echoed by Yomiuri:

政策を遂行していく上で、継続を訴えるだけでは心もとない。

Given that [M. Suga] will be executing policies, it is not enough to talk about “continuation” only.

I didn’t know the expression 心もとない. It means “to feel uneasy/insecure about” or that something is “unreliable, untrustworthy, precarious, doubtful”. After deliberating for some time on how to translate it, I gave up.

And by Tokyo:

菅氏はまず内政、外交にわたって安倍政治を検証し、何を引き継ぎ、何を引き継がないのか、新政権としてどんな社会を目指し、それをどう実現するのか、具体的に語る必要がある。

Sankei also wishes that Suga adopts the role of a Prime Minister with a strong leadership who can lead the country in a time of crisis. They add:

菅氏は大局観をもって日本の針路を描き、国民に分かりやすく説明しつつ政策課題に果敢に取り組んでいかねばならない。

As for Mainichi, they criticise Suga for not having a political vision of his own:

菅氏は総裁に選出された後、「安倍首相の取り組みを継承し、進める使命がある」と語った。しかし、政策の継承ばかりが前面に出て、何を前進させ、どんな国を目指すのかという大きなビジョンは見えない。

Apparently, Suga said that he would resolve once and for all the scandals that stroke Abe’s administration… Asahi wonders if this is possible:

政治や行政への信頼を深く傷つけた森友学園、加計学園、桜を見る会の問題について、菅氏は決着済みとの姿勢に終始している。菅氏はきのう「国民から信頼される政府をつくっていきたい」と語ったが、負の遺産にフタをしたまま、それができると考えているのだろうか。

Finally, Tokyo says that merely pursuing your predecessor’s policy is great if this policy was good, but we cannot wish that the new Prime Minister goes on with Abe’s handling of the coronavirus crisis: そのまま継承すべきではないのは当然だ。

Topic 4: Suga cabinet

And finally, new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga named his Cabinet on Wednesday 16th.

I am just having a quick look at some editorials:

Yomiuri: 菅内閣発足 経済復活へ困難な課題に挑め
Mainichi: 菅義偉・新内閣が発足 まず強引な手法の転換を
Asahi: 菅「継承」内閣が発足 安倍政治の焼き直しはご免だ
Tokyo: 菅内閣が始動 国民全体の奉仕者たれ

Yoshihide Suga kept Taro Aso as Finance Minister and Toshihiro Nikai as secretary-general. Yomiuri says that keeping these two politicians at these key posts is a way to maintain stability:

前政権を内閣と党で支えた2人の続投で、政治の安定を図る狙いがあるのだろう。

But Mainichi points out that the Ministry of Finance under Aso had been directly implicated in the Moritomo scandal:

麻生太郎副総理兼財務相が再任されたのにも驚く。本来は、森友学園問題で財務省が手を染めた公文書改ざんが発覚した時点で引責辞任すべきだったのだ。

It is also surprising to see Taro Aso staying in office as Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, given that he should have taken responsibility by resigning when it was discovered that the Ministry of Finance had falsified documents in the Moritomo scandal.

手を染める means “turn one’s hand to sth”. My English is not good enough to find a good way to translate it or to know whether this expression can be used in this context.

And Mainichi fears that Suga will only continue in the same line than Abe, and not change his style of politics (政治手法), and again, criticise the “継続” position of Suga.

指導者は強大な権力を抑制的に行使すべきであり、国民の理解と納得を得るのが責務だ。ところが前首相と菅氏は、権力は極力、使うものだと考えてきたと思われる。普天間問題が解決しない現状が示すように、その姿勢を変える時だ。やはり、継承するだけでは済まされない。

This is echoed by Asahi:

問題の多い安倍氏の政治手法まで「継承」されてはたまらない。

We cannot bear the thought of M. Suga “continuing” even the problematic style of governance of M. Abe.

Noting that women still were not representated in the Cabinet, Tokyo adds:

菅氏は組閣に当たり「国民のために働く内閣をつくりたい」と述べている。強い発信力で政権のアピールに努めるよりも、地道に政策を実現し、国民の理解を得たいということなのだろう。

Conclusion

I felt a little overwhelmed by the number of articles to read, their length and difficulty. In order to understand them, I have to switch to a “study” mode, look up words, re-read the same sentence several times and look for complementary pieces of information in articles in English. I was also quite stressed in September for other reasons, so I didn’t have enough energy left to work on the translations.

I will take some holidays towards the end of October, so there will be no post in the news section next month.

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