Further Comment on Makiko Tanaka's Dismissal
J. Sean Curtin (Professor, Japanese Red Cross University, Japan)
This comment originally appeared in the "Japan-U.S. Discussion Fourm" (http://lists.nbr.org/japanforum) on February 2, 2002: posted here with the author's permission.
Most Japanese politicians and political analysts seem to be completely out of touch with what ordinary voters actually think about the Tanaka sacking. It has only been in the last day or so that some have grudgingly accepted that Koizumi may have made a fatal error of judgment in his sacking of this troublesome woman. We read volumes of expert opinion on the alleged shortcomings of the former foreign minister. We are told she was emotional, vain, erratic, unreliable, etc. Yet, never do the political analysts ever give voice to what most ordinary Japanese women believe to be her greatest crime, namely that she was a strong woman in a world dominated by men. I get the impression that a lot of Japanese women feel that the criticisms aimed at Tanaka are exactly the kind of comments many talented career women experience in everyday life.
One thing seems certain, whether the politic class like it or not, the public are disgusted by the sacking of Tanaka. No matter how it is justified, the public will not accepted it. Koizumi has inflicted a mortal blow upon his administration. The only reason he has escaped the full wrath of the public so far is because Suzuki Muneo is currently being depicted as the devil incarnate. The level of anger aimed at Suzuki almost makes you feel sorry for him. It must scare other politicians. Once the popular TV shows and tabloid press have finished ripping Suzuki to shreds, Koizumi could well be next in line. He might not survive such an onslaught.
At this juncture, none of us can predict how this drama will play out. Past experience teaches us that anything is possible in Japanese politics and the media is awash with countless scenarios. The only thing that seems sure is that Tanaka will remain the focal point of Japanese politics for some time to come. Depending on how she plays her hand, she could well find herself back in a position of power, much strengthened. She has certainly made a huge impact and for once the Japanese public are actually taking a keen interest in politics.