As the Democratic Party of Japan elected its third president in less than two years, disgust has been growing with the old-guard political culture that has prompted a revolving door of prime ministers for almost 20 years.
Political commentator Minoru Morita sees the quick turnover of prime ministers since the DPJ took control of the government in 2009 as a sign that although the ruling party has changed, the political world still operates under the old ways.
"While the DPJ government was created because of the expectations of the public, the political situation has not changed," Morita said, "and the DPJ has become nothing more than another Liberal Democratic Party."
The trend of prime ministers being replaced after only a year or so is not a recent development.
Since 1989, when the Heisei Era began, Junichiro Koizumi is the noticeable exception, having served more than five years as prime minister. However, there have been only two other prime ministers who served for more than two years--Toshiki Kaifu and Ryutaro Hashimoto.
After Shinzo Abe became prime minister in autumn 2006, Diet gridlock was set in place by the 2007 Upper House election. Since then, the trend of short-term prime ministers has become even more prevalent, with a new leader in office every year.
"The situation of Diet gridlock has to be respected because that is the will of the public," Morita said. "One characteristic for a prime minister amid such circumstances is the ability to respond flexibly, but both the DPJ and LDP are locked into their old habits."
Business consultant Kazuyoshi Komiya is also critical of the trend of rapid turnover in prime ministers.
"It is inconceivable among ordinary companies to have the top leader replaced almost every year," he said.
He believes the manner in which the prime minister is selected is a major factor behind the trend.
"Many company presidents assume office after their characteristics and abilities have been verified both within and outside the company," Komiya said. "However, Japan's political leaders are decided by who can round up the largest number of votes."
Komiya would like to see a system where the public directly elects the prime minister.
Many DPJ officials are clearly embarrassed by the rapid change in prime ministers.
"We will have to accept the criticism that we are shuffling around the post," said Setsuo Kurokawa, secretary-general of the DPJ Aichi prefectural chapter.
He added that the situation was similar to the waning days of the LDP government when prime ministers were replaced annually without a dissolution of the Lower House and holding a snap election.
Jun Numaya, who heads the DPJ caucus in the Akita prefectural assembly, said, "There is no excuse for replacing prime ministers every year."
Yuji Taguchi, secretary-general of the Miyazaki prefectural chapter, added, "While we also do not want to see the prime minister replaced so quickly, they are unable to stay in office, and the results have ended up being regrettable."
Many officials said the problem was not just about the DPJ, but other problems arose because of the rapid turnover.
"The political and economic situation does not stabilize, so it is undesirable to have effects arise on the lives of the people," said Masatoshi Nishimoto, secretary-general of the DPJ Fukui prefectural chapter.
Kazuhiko Matsuo, secretary-general of the Aomori prefectural chapter, said: "This is not a problem about political parties such as the LDP or DPJ, but is an issue about Japan's political culture. The public does not have enough patience and tolerance."
On the other hand, Shoichi Matsui, the deputy secretary-general of the DPJ Tochigi prefectural chapter, said: "While it may not be the desired result, it is unavoidable. Politics is about taking responsibility for results. When (the public) has made the assessment that promises have not been kept, there has to be a change in the leader."
Shuhei Hasegawa, secretary-general of the Ibaraki prefectural chapter, said, "While efforts have to be made in order to remain in control of government for a longer period, the party has not responded to the expectations of the public."
Toshiaki Sugawara, deputy secretary-general of the Miyagi prefectural chapter, said that in addition to the various difficulties in leading the government, the frequency of public opinion polls also presented problems for those in charge.
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