Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Osaka Elections - Ishin no Kai rise to become Abe's more-than-just-loyal opposition

Despite the backing of the Liberal Democratic Party, the Japanese Communist Party and the Democratic Party of Japan, challenger Takako Kurihara lost the governor’s race to the incumbent, Osaka Ishin-backed Ichiro Matsui, by about 1 million of roughly 3.9 million votes cast. However, the real shock was the defeat of LDP-, JCP- and DPJ-backed Akira Yanagimoto by Hashimoto’s hand-picked successor as mayor, Hirofumi Yoshimura. 
Yanagimoto enjoyed a high profile as the voice of opposition to Osaka Ishin. He was strongly supported by his uncle, Upper House member Takuji Yanagimoto, and the LDP faction of Wakayama-based LDP General Council Chairman Toshihiro Nikai, to which he belongs. Other LDP heavyweights, including policy chief Tomomi Inada, who has been touted as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s favored successor, also came to Osaka to stump on his behalf. 
But Yanagimoto lost by almost 200,000 votes out of the more than 1 million cast. LDP officials, especially Nikai, who tried to help Yanagimoto by announcing his support for a vague public works project that would help ensure the nation’s first commercial high-speed maglev line gets extended to Osaka. 
“We humbly accept the losses, and will analyze the reasons for them,” said Toshimitsu Motegi, an LDP Upper House member and the party’s election committee chief. 
Yet while the LDP got trounced, the news was not necessarily bad for Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who have grown close to Hashimoto and Matsui and see them as allies in their efforts to revise the Constitution and inject conservative, and often revisionist, views of history into the education system. 
Hashimoto himself told voters the LDP’s Osaka candidates are very different from Abe.

“The LDP of Shinzo Abe and the LDP’s Osaka chapter are chalk and cheese. It’s Abe’s LDP that has the power to get things done,” he told voters last week while stumping for Yoshimura.
Japan Times 

Tomoaki Iwai, professor of politics at Tokyo's Nihon University, told AFP: "Observing Hashimoto's outstanding popularity in the elections, Prime Minister Abe is expected to try to keep Hashimoto on his side." 
The two politicians have shared ideas on amending the constitution imposed by the United States after World War II.

The Mainichi Shimbun newspaper said the double victory would allow Hashimoto to regain his political influence amid speculation that he would run in national elections himself in a bid to expand his party's presence in parliament and re-launch the Osaka reform plan.
AP/Channel News Asia

The close political cooperative relationship between Abe and Hashimoto has engineered a complete breakdown in coordination and trust between the Osaka chapters of the LDP and the national LDP headquarters. The LDP in Osaka ran its own candidates in the double election, asking for and receiving electoral support from blood rivals the Democratic Party of Japan and the Japan Communist Party. The election also caused a minor split between national allies the LDP and Komeito, with the Osaka Komeito chapter releasing its supporters to vote for whomever they wished. 
Third, even with their victories in the executive branch posts, the Osaka Ishin no Kai still lacks enough seats in the prefectural and municipal assemblies to initiate the metro area plan. Osaka Ishin no Kai will still need cooperation from another party, ostensibly the Komeito since they are the enemies of just about everybody else. 
Tactically, Prime Minister Abe's embrace of Hashimoto seems a disaster. He has made enemies of the LDP establishment in Osaka, Japan's second city.  
Strategically, however, Abe's continued encouragement of Hashimoto's efforts hurts the national forces of opposition. As long as Hashimoto and his acolytes are in operation, the Kansai region has its own, home-grown opposition to the LDP. With the Ishin no Kai and the LDP slugging it out, perhaps good-naturedly (if Abe invests the time to bring the two sides to a truce) in the Kansai, the DPJ will have forego making a play for the Kansai's rich harvest of seats, making the path to becoming a worthwhile national challenger to the LDP all the harder.

The Sunday winners owned their victory to Hashimoto’s continued Ishin-style politics. However, Hashimoto’s political style, which pushes through his plans by fiercely attacking opponents and inflaming disputes, has caused a deep chasm between the people who support Hashimoto or Osaka Ishin no Kai and those that oppose them.
A senior official of the Osaka city government said: “Under the Hashimoto style, which prefers confrontation over dialogue, there have been numerous cut-throat political struggles.” 
Hashimoto also clearly distinguished between the Prime Minister’s Office and the LDP’s Osaka prefectural federation, saying during street speeches: “The LDP led by Abe and the LDP in Osaka are completely different. The LDP led by Abe has the ability to get things done.” 
His remarks indicated a desire to maintain a good relationship with the prime minister, and draw in supporters of the LDP. 
Osaka Ishin no Kai — a new national party led by Hashimoto — is supportive of Abe’s policies, including revision of the Constitution, and it will help Abe manage his administration if Osaka Ishin no Kai retains a certain number of seats in the House of Councillors election. A key member of the government said Osaka Ishin no Kai is also “a convenient presence” for dividing opposition parties.

Osaka Ishin no Kai does not hold a majority in the prefectural assembly or the city assembly. We hope both Matsui and Yoshimura will have thorough discussions even with people who hold different views, to win their understanding and draw up a course of action for rejuvenating Osaka.
Hashimoto left the Japan Innovation Party and established in late October a new national political party called Osaka Ishin no Kai [with the “Osaka” in its name written in hiragana, unlike the regional party with the Osaka written in kanji]. Riding the crest of the victories in the double elections, he will aim to maintain and even expand his political clout.
Nineteen legislators will join the new national party. Hashimoto, after retiring from politics [upon completing his term of office in December], is likely to be an “adviser on legal policy” for the new party, to retain his influence. 
The new national party is also considering cooperating with the Abe administration. It is important for the party to present counterproposals and spar verbally in a constructive manner. 
Such an intention to be a “responsible opposition party” would help the party differentiate itself clearly from the DPJ and the JCP, both of which oppose everything the administration does, and demonstrate its presence.

Yomiuri (Editorial)

Monday, November 23, 2015

ASEAN establishes landmark economic and security bloc - Channel NewsAsia

Terrorism Is No Longer a Peripheral Problem: Modi at ASEAN Summit - The Quint

Abe raises South China Sea dispute at ASEAN | The Japan Times

US, Southeast Asia work on ending human trafficking - The Malaysian Insider

Civil society, free press important for country to thrive, Obama tells Najib | Malaysia | Malay Mail Online

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Democracy in Myanmar: Far From Home

Critics fret that within NLD, authority resides with a tiny inner-circle, focused on personality politics. This perception has been reinforced by Aung San Suu Kyi's recent statement that she wouldbe above the president – a position she is constitutionally barred from holding. Democracy of a sort may be coming to Myanmar, some say, but will it come to NLD?

If anyone has earned the right to lead Myanmar and has a mandate to do so, it is Daw Suu Kyi. Given all that she has been through, it is hardly surprising she is determined to be more than a figurehead. However, in the same interview she also spoke reassuringly of cabinet decision-making, but this was largely ignored.

The new government should be judged on what it does and not what contrarian commentators think it might do.

The most immediate and urgent strategic objective of India in Myanmar pertains to the fate of pending Indian projects which have already been overly delayed. This delay is extremely galling for India and that is why for the past two years the ministry of external affairs has taken a policy decision that it won’t work on new projects until the pending ones are completed.
An obvious outcome of the delay would be that the new government would either cancel these commitments or seek out others who can do it. China could be the biggest beneficiary and now, with the return of democracy and sanctions lifted, there will be a rush from the world community – including those who have imposed sanctions – to help Myanmar rebuild itself. 
Myanmar is on the cusp of political change that remains uncertain. There is still need for caution in that it is necessary to wait and watch if the present government of president Thein Sein will keep its promise.

One cannot lose sight of the fact that the military has been predominant and calls the shots on the ground and has even 25 per cent reserved strength in the new legislature.

Daily O

Clampdowns on free speech and anti-government activity in Thailand and Malaysia are further reminders of backward steps from democracy in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations as it prepares to host US President Barack Obama at its annual summit this week.
“Elections in Myanmar will certainly change the dynamics within Asean,” said Ambika Ahuja, Southeast Asia analyst at Eurasia Group, the political risk consultancy. 
“Myanmar's case highlighted a development disparity in the region. But now major economies such as Thailand and Malaysia are increasingly embroiled in internal political struggles.”
Financial Times 

Stripped of their right to cast ballots by the current government, many Rohingya now hope that, with the NLD able to rule largely on its own, a Suu Kyi-led government will work to restore their lives and many of the rights they have lost. 
"I hope that things will get a little bit better," said Noor Bagum, a 28-year-old mother-of-five, whose village was destroyed during violence between Buddhists and Muslims that swept through Myanmar's western Rakhine State in 2012.

Dealing with the Rohingya will be one of the most controversial - and unavoidable - of a long list of issues Suu Kyi will inherit from the current government.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Australia Just Got Rubbished By North Korea, Iran, Pretty Much Everyone On The UN Human Rights Council | Junkee

UN review puts Australia on the spot over human rights record

Christmas Island riot 'inevitable' | Radio New Zealand News

New Zealand female MPs thrown out of parliament after disclosing sexual assaults | World news | The Guardian

Notes on the politics around Australia’s deportation policy | The Dim-Post

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Pakistan Executions poised to hit grim milestone – bigger than Saudi Arabia’s | Asia | News | The Independent

Indian firm to produce Apache airframe parts - Bloomberg Business

Why South Korea likes Shinzo Abe less than Kim Jong-un | South China Morning Post

Japan its own enemy in push to improve cybersecurity - Lowell Sun Online

Vladivostok woos Japan- Nikkei Asian Review

Monday, November 09, 2015

Myanmar Elections: Waiting for Governance

MILLIONS of Myanmar voters cast votes in an election yesterday that promises to change the country - but many admitted the reality that their dream may not come true this time.

U Khin Maung Aye, a candidate of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), conceded that the popular National League for Democracy (NLD) would win more seats than the government party.

"But unless the NLD wins more than 66.5 per cent of seats in the lower and upper house combined, it cannot set up a government alone," he said.

The ruling USDP expects to win 40 per cent of seats in the parliament from voters across the entire country. It has less support in Yangon, Mandalay and Bago and expects to win only 20-30 per cent of seats in those regions, he said.

With support from the military quota in parliament - 25 per cent of MPs - plus an alliance of small parties, the USDP could secure 66.5 per cent of both houses to form the government, he said.
"The problem is our government is not very much clean. Our ministers are corrupt and quite unfortunately these corrupt ministers are our party's members. The people have not very much faith in our party," said the candidate, a former English-language teacher and journalist from Kamayut township.

Voters had queued from before dawn in huge numbers to cast their ballots for the first time in a quarter of a century, on a day heavy with history and pregnant with emotion.
As counting got under way, early indications were of an "80 percent" turnout, according to Union Election Commission deputy director Thant Zin Aung -- a figure the opposition believe favours their bid for a majority.
Voting was generally smooth, observers said, with some isolated irregularities. The first official results are expected to be issued from 09:00 local time (15:30 GMT) today.
Although the outcome of the poll will not be clear for at least 36 hours, a densely packed crowd blocked a busy road beside the headquarters of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy in Yangon as they cheered and waved red flags.
Thousands of supporters gathered there in the hope of some indication of victory from Suu Kyi. But the woman known affectionately as "The Lady" did not appear.
Instead NLD patron Tin Oo read a message from the party's figurehead.
"I urge you to wait for the result from your own homes," he said, adding: "When the result comes out, I want you to accept it calmly." 

"One of the things that is different this year is that the government has welcomed international observation," Britain's ambassador, Andrew Patrick, told the Observer in the former colonial capital of Rangoon, now the country's largest city and renamed Yangon. "We have 25 embassy teams around the country."
Sein has pushed through reforms, releasing political prisoners, allowing a relatively independent press to thrive and opening the long-isolated economy to foreign investment after sanctions were lifted.
But critics of the former junta and their handpicked civilian government say that, while the economy has opened up, the rewards have not been shared and political freedoms are few. 

International observers, including those from the European Union and the Carter Centre, wandered about. While waiting, local media interviewed foreign journalists and journalists interviewed voters. Most abided by the law prohibiting them from telling others which party they would vote for.

The excitement peaked at 9am as Suu Kyi arrived. Her chauffeur drove her directly to the entrance of the voting booth, while hundreds of media members and her supporters tightly surrounded her vehicle. People were pushed as security guards shouted, "Move, Move".

As soon as she got out of her car, resplendent in a dark red blouse and white jasmine in her hair, her supporters shouted in Burmese: "NLD must win". The noise was loud enough to silence the sound of over a hundred cameras.

The Nobel laureate was escorted to the booth, where she cast her ballot, photographed and taken back to her vehicle. Everything happened in less than five minutes, so quick that some could not wade through the crowd to see the colour of her longyi.

Then there was more pushing and the scene nearly disintegrated into a "stampede". As everyone closely followed Suu Kyi's vehicle, someone stepped really hard on my foot and someone else knocked the mobile phone from my hand. A long microphone handle nearly hit a Nation TV reporter in the eye. Blood spilled and some voters rapidly offered tissue.

As soon as her car left the gate, the commotion stopped. People dispersed, including Than Win.

"Even though I waited for about two hours, I saw only the colour of her dress. At least I've witnessed first-hand how much people love her, wherever she goes and whatever she does," he said. 

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Nanhai Update: Resistance Gains Shape

"We're going to come down to about twice a quarter or a little more than that," said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about navy operational plans.
"That's the right amount to make it regular but not a constant poke in the eye. It meets the intent to regularly exercise our rights under international law and remind the Chinese and others about our view," the official said.
On Monday Ben Rhodes, the US deputy national security adviser, said there would be more demonstrations of the US military's commitment to the right to freely navigate in the region.
"That's our interest there … It's to demonstrate that we will uphold the principle of freedom of navigation," Rhodes told an event hosted by the Defense One media outlet.


Without a doubt, the US must assure its allies in this region and also continue to assert its freedom of navigation rights in order to avoid giving China tacit consent to changing international norms. China is also certainly unhappy about the US' actions, which it perceives as targeted at China, especially since the USS Lassen incident came so shortly after Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to the US.
Nonetheless, both sides are keen to not let this issue blow up. What we see, therefore, are the US and China walking a very fine line, and engaging in diplomatic signalling, mixed with friendly gestures to manage the situation.
In the months to come, however, China and the US are likely to be forced to adopt a more assertive posture as a result of domestic pressure. The Chinese nationalistic public are already urging officials to be more aggressive in their policies. The US' engagement strategy towards China will also evolve into a heated topic for discussion as the 2016 US presidential campaign gets under way.


The region's growing strategic interest in India, however, goes beyond the formal praise for Delhi's responsible approach to territorial conflicts and its respect for international rule of law in the Bay of Bengal. The region has welcomed Delhi's expanding interest in South China Sea issues in recent years. The UPA government had begun to raise its voice in favour of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, as well as urging Beijing to resolve its territorial disputes peacefully.
Yet there was some concern in the region that Delhi was reluctant to accept a larger role in the South China Sea, given its apparent fears of provoking Beijing. The government of Narendra Modi seems a little less inhibited. In a surprising move in January this year, Prime Minister Modi signed a joint vision statement with US President Barack Obama on the shared security interests in the Indo-Pacific littoral stretching from the east coast of Africa to the South China Sea.
In an explicit reference to China's maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Modi and Obama called on "all parties to avoid the threat or use of force and pursue resolution of territorial and maritime disputes through all peaceful means, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea". 


James Goldrick, a former rear-admiral in the Royal Australian Navy who is now a non-resident fellow with the Lowy Institute for International Policy, says Australia must soon follow the US lead by sending a warship into the waters around the reclaimed features.
Payne's strong statement of support for the US is not enough, says Goldrick, and Australia needs to send a warship to pass, even briefly, close to one of the reclaimed Chinese "islands".
Goldrick says while China's claims ultimately could limit nations' freedom to have merchant ships pass through parts of the South China Sea, an important global transit route, it is more accurate to describe the rights sought by the US and its allies as "freedom of naval operations".
That means a warship can use its military equipment, whereas the normal maritime "right of innocent passage" would see it move across another nation's territorial waters by the shortest safe route without launching helicopters or using radar or other such equipment.