Since political parties by definition seek to attain control of government, it is only natural that the Democratic Party and other opposition groups should have demanded Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori’s resignation in unison. On the other hand, it is incumbent upon journalists to comment on government policies from a much broader perspective.
In reality, however, newspapers appear to be only interested in finding fault with Mori’s every word. Those assigned to report on the prime minister chase him around the clock, putting unbearable pressure on him.
In France, members of the news media stop following the president after 6 p.m. out of recognition that he is entitled to some privacy. Why don’t Japan’s media follow this example and give the prime minister a break?
The Japanese prime minister is obliged to live in the official residence, which, in a sense, offers a living environment worse than that of a prison. It is hardly a comfortable place to live. It is no wonder the prime minister wants to go out to a restaurant every now and then to have a little freedom.
I would like to call upon newspaper editors and TV news directors to experience living in the prime minister’s official residence so they can discover what a miserable place it is.
The prime minister needs spiritual comfort. Journalists have an obligation to provide him with some comfort instead of criticizing him all the time.
It seems that Mori, who has been in office for about a year, made up his mind to resign shortly after the fisheries training ship Ehime Maru was struck by a U.S. nuclear submarine and sunk off the coast of Hawaii Feb. 11.
That day the prime minister was enjoying the rare pleasure of playing golf. Upon being informed of the incident, he issued orders through his secretary to take every necessary step.
Following his secretary’s advice to stay on the golf course to ensure emergency contact could be made, Mori then finished the last couple of holes, returned home, changed clothes and went to his residence.
The opposition parties severely criticized Mori for continuing to play golf after learning of the disaster. The media jumped on the bandwagon and accused the prime minister of neglecting his duties.
The prime minister countered by saying that, while his decision not to return to his residence immediately could be subject to criticism, he was not simply playing golf; he was also issuing all necessary instructions.
I thought the prime minister’s response was reasonable in that he demonstrated he was not neglecting his duties, yet the media continued to attack him in an excessive manner. In the end, the furor apparently led him to seek an opportunity to step down.
From his assumption of office last April 5 to the Feb. 11 submarine tragedy, Mori was under constant attack by the media. Who wouldn’t have become disgusted under such constant attack? And finally, at a March 10 meeting of the top five leaders of his party, Mori expressed his intention of resigning.
The LDP will elect its next president April 24. I think it is wrong, however, to assume that the next LDP president will automatically become prime minister.
The Mori government consists of a coalition of the LDP, New Komeito and the New Conservative Party. In a constitutional democracy, the only logical step for coalition members to take when a prime minister steps down is to assume joint responsibility and withdraw from the government, clearing the way for the opposition to form a new government.
Under such a rule, Yukio Hatoyama of the Democratic Party would become the prime minister. But since his party does not hold a majority in the National Diet, he would have to dissolve the House of Representatives and call a general election.
Newspapers do not appear to follow this logic. They seem to forget that the rules of constitutional democracy call for opposition parties to form a new Cabinet in the case of a failure by the governing parties. They instead simply cry that there is nobody within the LDP qualified to head the government. This is totally ridiculous.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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