Asia Scope

Former Japanese Finance Chief Found Dead

Japan news today. The big story is the death of former Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, who was found dead at his home in Tokyo yesterday. Early reports suggest the police think it unlikely Nakagawa, who lost his House of Representatives seat at the recent general election, committed suicide. But whatever the cause, the death is still a blow to the Liberal Democratic Party, which was routed at the same poll, where it lost power for virtually the first time in more than five decades.

Nakagawa may not have been an LDP lawmaker anymore after his shock defeat in August (appearing incoherent and apparently drunk at a G-7 meeting earlier this year undoubtedly contributed to that result), but he had been a key member of a party that is desperately trying to pull itself together after its devastating loss.

I’m working on an in-depth piece looking at the challenges facing the Democratic Party of Japan, which has just taken power. But inevitably discussions I’ve had with leading commentators have turned to the future of the defeated LDP.

Akira Nakamura, a professor at Meiji University’s School of Political Science and Economics, was pretty downbeat. He told me: ‘I don’t think LDP has a chance to get back to the mainstream of Japanese politics. The election was a death blow to the party. It may split into many mini parties. I am sure if Taro Kono wouldn’t get elected as a party president [which he didn’t] he will leave the LDP…to form another party. Fragmentation of the LDP will help the DPJ to stay in power.’