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Japan's politics too immature for stable power: ex-PM

Despite last year's dramatic change of government, Japan is still years away from achieving a real two-party system. -AFP

Wed, Jul 21, 2010

TOKYO, JAPAN - Japan, despite last year's dramatic change of government, is still years away from achieving a real two-party system, says one of its best-known former prime ministers, Yasuhiro Nakasone.

'Party politics have yet to mature' in the world's number-two economy, said Nakasone, a retired conservative statesman who served as premier for five years in the 1980s as head of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

'One of the reasons is that politicians with strong leadership skills have yet to emerge in Japan,' said the 92-year-old, known for his hawkish views, in an interview with AFP.

Japan has had five premiers in four years, a revolving-door leadership that has done little for the country's international stature or its efforts to fix problems, from mounting public debt to sluggish economic growth.

The centre-left party of Prime Minister Naoto Kan last year pledged a fresh start when it ended over half a century of conservative rule, but it has been much weakened by a poor showing in an upper house ballot this month.

Nakasone said Japan should keep working toward a system where two major parties take turns in governing every few years, like in the United States and Britain, to foster dynamism in politics.

'But it will take considerable time", he said, predicting that the recent emergence of more smaller parties would make politics more complicated.

Nakasone said Kan's power is limited by internal party power plays ' pointing at the need to form 'cooperative relations' with rival Ichiro Ozawa, a DPJ powerbroker who was forced out of his post this year over money scandals.

The former premier also blamed Japan's media, who have hounded the country's recent leaders, door-stopping them at their homes and endlessly speculating about their 'gaffes' and when they should step down.

'Compared with the West, Japanese media have been tainted by excessive populism,' Nakasone said. 'I think the trend will improve, and coverage will become more rational, but so far it hasn't.'

On the diplomatic front, Nakasone stressed the need for Japan's security alliance with the United States, chiding the previous premier Yukio Hatoyama for having propagated a more 'equal' partnership with Washington.

Nakasone, who strengthened the alliance by forging close personal ties with then US president Ronald Reagan, said post-war Japan prospered in part because it could rely on the United States for security and deterrence.

'Japan has yet to reach the stage where it should handle its self-defence by relying only on its own military,' he said.

Looking at China, Nakasone said Japan should not worry too much about soon giving up its title as the world's second biggest economy to the rising continental Asian power, which he described as still fragile.

'It is natural for China to surpass Japan in terms of GDP,' he said.

'But China still has a huge problem,' he added, referring to a potential contradiction between China's free market economy and its communist government.

'China is somewhat vulnerable as a state,' Nakasone said. 'Therefore, it's not necessary to worry about the Chinese issue.'

Nakasone, a veteran of Japan's wartime navy and a law graduate from the University of Tokyo, served as premier between 1982 and 1987.

He called for a revision of Japan's pacifist constitution, while irking Asia by once visiting a controversial war shrine in Tokyo.

He privatised Japan's tobacco, railway and telecom industries, while pushing for a stronger yen. Although he retired from parliament in 2003, he still maintains influence and has advised recent leaders, including Kan.

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