A sudden and altogether ridiculous politcal scandal claimed the scalp of foreign minister Seiji Maehara on Sunday. Maehara, one of the Democratic Party of Japan heavyweights and a potential successor to Prime Minister Naoto Kan, was forced to resign because he unknowingly accepted political donations from a foreigner, which is illegal.
It's thrown the already floundering DPJ into further despair and hopelessness, the latest in a line of scandals that have seen Kan's approval ratings drop to 19%. They are almost certain to be destroyed in the next election, and Kan himself is seen as doomed sooner than that. Last week 16 members of the party aligned with rebel faction leader Ozawa boycotted the government vote for the budget, and there is increasing pressure on Kan to resign. He probably will sometime in the next few months. If there is a new PM soon, it will be the sixth in 6 years.
Why the DPJ couldn't sit this out is beyond me; Maehara's department made a mistake, but their fuck-up shouldn't result in the destruction of a cabinet member. It's not as if he did anything wrong; somebody who was doing the pen-pushing in some office just didn't know the rules. If the government can't stick out such attacks what hope have they to do the really hard stuff: revitalise the country and deal with the incredibly difficult things that must be done?
By the way, this 'foreign national' is known to be a Korean zainichi; that is, her family was taken here from Korea during the war or earlier. She owns a restaurant and donated about $500 a year for five years. She's hardly a threat to national security. She speaks Japanese, was born here and has lived here all her life: and she should have the right to make donations to any party she likes in Japan. She's about as foreign as kaiten zushi. But in Japan it's the letter of the law (even an unjust absurd law) that counts. Form over substance again.