Inhae reads the news: September 2020

Note: I haven’t been able to translate all the extracts I chose by lack of time. I also found the articles rather difficult to read and quite long for most of them. I got discouraged more than once, not being able to understand the articles by simply reading them. Even after looking up words, some paragraphs remained obscure. Either I misunderstand grammatical patterns, either they hint at references I don’t know, or I just don’t understand what the author is trying to say. In any case, I still have a lot of work to do before I am able to read the news in Japanese…

Topic 1: Abe’s resignation

The biggest news of this month is of course Abe’s resignation as Prime Minister.

Let’s first study articles of August 29th, the day following Abe announcing his resignation for health reasons.

Yomiuri: 首相退陣表明 危機対処へ政治空白を避けよ
Sankei: 首相の退陣表明 速やかに自民党総裁選を 「安倍政治」を発射台にせよ
Mainichi: 安倍首相が辞任表明 行き詰まった末の幕引き
Asahi: 最長政権 突然の幕へ 「安倍政治」の弊害 清算の時
Tokyo: 首相退陣表明 「安倍政治」の転換こそ

Useful vocabulary:

持病じびょうa chronic illness
潰瘍性大腸炎かいようせいだいちょうえんUlcerative colitis
Apparently, this word is mainly used for the military (decamp) or for the Prime Minister (resign from the Cabinet, leave the Cabinet).
総裁選そうさいせんA presidential election.
出馬しゅつばPut oneself forward as a candidate
総裁候補そうさいこうほA candidate for president (of the LDP), A Prime Minister candidate.

All newspapers are hoping for rapid elections to avoid any political turmoil:

Yomiuri: 政権を担う自民党は、早急に新たなリーダーを選び、混乱を回避する必要がある。

Given that the LDP is leading the state, it is necessary to choose a new leader rapidly to avoid political turmoil.

Sankei: 自民党は国政の混乱を最小限にするため、速やかに総裁選挙を実施し、新たなリーダーを決めてもらいたい。

The LDP must organise elections rapidly and decide on a new leader in order to minimise political confusion.

Mainichi also says that the election should happen as soon as possible but warns that it should not be held behind closed doors:


Given that we are still in the coronavirus crisis, it is necessary to choose a new leader rapidly. However, deliberations must not happen behind closed doors.

Asahi similarly hope for a transparent election:


We must hold elections that include the participation of all party members and party supporters and that are transparent to the public.

Tokyo goes further in this direction, saying that the public has a right to know about each candidate’s position:


Obviously, there must be political debate accessible to the people. Each candidate must explain in details his ideas and measures to deal with burning issues like the coronavirus.

All newspapers also go through Abe’s legacy, but, as you can imagine, conservative newspapers and left-wing newspapers don’t talk about the same legacy. To talk about Abe’s achievements, Sankei uses the word “remarkable” (著しい) and Yomiuri the word “great” (大きい).

On the other end of the spectrum, Mainichi talks about “negative legacy” (負の遺産) and Tokyo says that Abe’s government has created 統治機構の根腐れ.

Mainichi goes through the scandals that struck during Abe’s government and give them as example of this “negative legacy”. Similarly, Asahi lists a series of scandals during Abe’s government such as the Cherry Blossom Party or various affairs relative to politicians. Sankei only mentions the Mori-Kake scandals and Yomiuri does not mention any affair at all.

All newspapers agree to say that Abe government has been “stable”. In Japanese, the word 安定 is the one usually used to refer to Abe’s two terms as Prime Minister.

I find very interesting to compare the formulations used by newspapers to talk about the political stability brought by Abe. Both Yomiuri and Sankei state the fact plainly 安定した国政運営だった and 不安定だった政治を立て直したことである.

Contrary to firm endings like だった and ことである, Mainichi and Asahi only acknowledge this fact. Talking about Abe government bringing back stability to politics, Mainichi says that it is 事実だろう and Asahi: 間違いあるまい:

Both Yomiuri and Sankei state that there was no other choice for Abe than to step down if his health condition has worsened. Yomiuri says: 病気が原因ではやむを得まい and also mentions that Abe has overwork might be the reason why Abe’s illness worsened.

Mainichi also recognises that his resignation might be inevitable (they use the same expression as Yomiuri: やむを得ない), but they note that it happens at the worst time and will create confusion: 任期途中の辞任で混乱を生んだことは残念だ。

Asahi points out that Abe’s resignation happens at a time where the government has lost the public’s confidence.


Tokyo opens its editorial with: 持病の潰瘍性大腸炎の再発が理由だという。健康悪化が理由ならやむを得ない。

I might be mistaken, but to me this formulation sounds like the author thinks that there might be other untold reasons. The use of という in the first sentence shows that the author just quotes the reason given by Abe but does not take it for granted. Similarly, the use of なら also hints that the author is not convinced that the reason given is the real reason. Tokyo’s sentence 健康悪化が理由ならやむを得ない looks similar to Yomiuri’s 病気が原因ではやむを得ない, but using で (because of/due to) or なら (if it is true that/if it is the case that) makes a difference.

Finally, it is interesting to contrast Sankei’s wish that Abe’s successor go on with Abe’s good results:


We wish that the candidates will value the direction and results of Abe government.

And Tokyo’s wish that Abe’s successor will not go on the same line of actions:


The question is now how will Abe’s successor depart from Abe’s politics who rotted the political system and treat the Constitution lightly.

Topic 2: Election won’t include party members

Information about the upcoming election to select Abe’s successor has come out on Tuesday.

On Tuesday 1st, the LDP announced that the election for Abe’s successor will follow an emergency procedure according to which only members of the Diet and some local representatives will vote.

In normal circumstances, members of the party would vote to elect the president of the LDP alongside Diet members. The 394 Diet members would receive half of the voting power and the more than 1 million party members would receive the other half.

However, in order to avoid a political vacuum in this time of crisis, only the 394 Diet members and 141 representatives from the the 47 prefectures will be able to vote. Arguments given are that organising a general election would take up to 2 months.

This is likely to disadvantage Shigeru Ishiba, popular among local voters but unpopular among lawmakers for his critical position toward Abe’s politics. On the contrary, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is in good position, having the support of five factions inside the LDP, including 細田派, the most influential one.

Candidates are:

菅義偉: Yoshihide Suga. He is Chief Cabinet Secretary 内閣官房長官 (ないかくかんぼうちょうかん). Articles usually refer to him as 菅官房長官.

岸田文雄: Fumio Kishida. He is the Chairman of the Policy Research Council 政務調査会長 (せいむちょうさかいちょう). Articles refer to him as 岸田政調会長

石破茂: Shigeru Ishiba. As Ishiba does not have a particular function at present, he is referred to as “former Secretary General (of the LDP)” 石破茂元幹事長. Interestingly, articles in English refer to him rather as “former Defence Minister”.

Yomiuri: 自民党総裁選 政策論争をなおざりにするな
Sankei: 自民党総裁選 政策論争が何より重要だ
Mainichi: 総裁選で党員投票せず 地方の声をなぜ聞かない
Asahi: 自民党総裁選 「内向きの論理」優先だ
Tokyo: 自民党総裁選 国民が見えていますか

自民党じみんとうLiberal Democratic Party.
The complete name is 自由民主党 (じゆうみんしゅとう)
総裁選そうさいせんA presidential election.
党大会とうたいかいA Party conference
議員総会ぎいんそうかいGeneral Assembly of Diet members.
両院議員総会 means General Assembly of Diet members of both houses.
国会議員こっかいぎいんMember of Parliament
A Political Faction.
Among the most influential factions, the Hosoda faction (細田派), the Aso faction (麻生派) and the Nikai faction (二階派) will support Yoshihide Suga. These three factions alone represent 200 lawmakers. It is much more than Kishida’s own faction (47) or Ishiba’s one (19). No wonder that, with rank-and-file members cut off from the election, the result will not be a surprise. (source: Wikipedia)
無派閥むはばつNot belonging to any faction.
While not belonging to any faction himself, Yoshihide Suga will receive the support of five factions.

Interestingly, all newspapers, including conservative ones, have a critical position towards the decision.

The least critic is Yomiuri, who acknowledges the necessity to speed up the process:


It is a necessity to speed up the election in order to reduce the political vacuum to the minimum.

But Yomiuri is asking that candidates introduce their policy to the public, for the sake of the 141 voters from local prefectures. If elections are to be carried out as decided, voters from local prefectures represent one fourth of the votes. Candidates need to present their policy to these voters:


While asking for more debate and discussions, Yomiuri does not question the reasons behind the decision, and says that it is normal due to the present circumstances.

Sankei seems to be siding with those asking for an election process that would include all the party members.


It is regrettable that the LDP does not hold elections that would include the more than one million party members and party supporters. Even if a lot of citizens do not belong to the LDP, if members do vote, more attention will be brought to the elections and politics in general.

And Sankei is calling for a public debate:


There is only little time between the announce and the vote, but what is the most important in general elections? It is that the candidates compete with each other before the public for their political view.

Mainichi points out that Shigeru Ishiba who received a strong support among local voters during the last elections, will be disadvantaged. They conclude:


No wonder people think that the winner will be decided based on factions influence.

It also seems obvious that Yoshihide Suga, who receives the support of the strongest factions, will win the race:


For Asahi, the situation is not urgent to the point of depriving party members from their rights:


The Diet is closed at the moment, there is no new outbreak of coronavirus infection and Abe has said that he would go on with his functions until a successor has been chosen. For Asahi, there will be no “political vacuum” as stated.

Asahi even mentions that the real purpose behind this choice could have been to cut off the road to Shigeru Ishiba and secure the position for Yoshihide Suga.



For Tokyo too, things also look like the real purpose was to restrain Ishiba’s chances:


Topic 3: Yoshihide Suga, new president of the LDP

As mentionned, Suga’s victory was not a surprise. On Saturday 12th (two days before the elections), the three candidates have presented their policy concerning the anti-coronavirus measures and economic measures at the Japan National Press Club. Reporting on the public debate, Yomiuri and Mainichi only focus on what Suga said, clearly showing that the election are just a formality.

The election took place on Monday 14th. I read the editorials of the 15th, but I must admit that they are quite difficult to understand. I just extracted some information:

Yomiuri: 自民総裁に菅氏 社会に安心感を取り戻したい
Sankei: 菅政権誕生へ 危機に立つ首相の自覚を 派閥にとらわれぬ人事を貫け
Mainichi: 自民新総裁に菅氏 継承ありきの異様な圧勝
Asahi: 菅新総裁選出 総括なき圧勝の危うさ
Tokyo: 自民総裁に菅氏 「表紙」だけを替えても

Yoshihide Suga mainly said that he will continue in the same line than Abe. While continuity might be better than brisk change in this time of crisis, assuming the role of Prime Minister (the LDP has such a majority in the Diet that the head of the party becomes the Prime Minister) requires a solid policy of one’s own.

This idea seems well summed up by Tokyo’s formulation:


Looking back at M. Suga’s speeches, [we notice that] he was so focused on talking about Abe government’s “continuation” that he barely mentioned any “new” policy.

The two words generally used are 継続・けいぞく (continuation) and 前進・ぜんしん (progress, advance, improvement). I chose to translate this last one with “new” because it seems better if we use it in opposition to “continuation”.

This is echoed by Yomiuri:


Given that [M. Suga] will be executing policies, it is not enough to talk about “continuation” only.

I didn’t know the expression 心もとない. It means “to feel uneasy/insecure about” or that something is “unreliable, untrustworthy, precarious, doubtful”. After deliberating for some time on how to translate it, I gave up.

And by Tokyo:


Sankei also wishes that Suga adopts the role of a Prime Minister with a strong leadership who can lead the country in a time of crisis. They add:


As for Mainichi, they criticise Suga for not having a political vision of his own:


Apparently, Suga said that he would resolve once and for all the scandals that stroke Abe’s administration… Asahi wonders if this is possible:


Finally, Tokyo says that merely pursuing your predecessor’s policy is great if this policy was good, but we cannot wish that the new Prime Minister goes on with Abe’s handling of the coronavirus crisis: そのまま継承すべきではないのは当然だ。

Topic 4: Suga cabinet

And finally, new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga named his Cabinet on Wednesday 16th.

I am just having a quick look at some editorials:

Yomiuri: 菅内閣発足 経済復活へ困難な課題に挑め
Mainichi: 菅義偉・新内閣が発足 まず強引な手法の転換を
Asahi: 菅「継承」内閣が発足 安倍政治の焼き直しはご免だ
Tokyo: 菅内閣が始動 国民全体の奉仕者たれ

Yoshihide Suga kept Taro Aso as Finance Minister and Toshihiro Nikai as secretary-general. Yomiuri says that keeping these two politicians at these key posts is a way to maintain stability:


But Mainichi points out that the Ministry of Finance under Aso had been directly implicated in the Moritomo scandal:


It is also surprising to see Taro Aso staying in office as Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, given that he should have taken responsibility by resigning when it was discovered that the Ministry of Finance had falsified documents in the Moritomo scandal.

手を染める means “turn one’s hand to sth”. My English is not good enough to find a good way to translate it or to know whether this expression can be used in this context.

And Mainichi fears that Suga will only continue in the same line than Abe, and not change his style of politics (政治手法), and again, criticise the “継続” position of Suga.


This is echoed by Asahi:


We cannot bear the thought of M. Suga “continuing” even the problematic style of governance of M. Abe.

Noting that women still were not representated in the Cabinet, Tokyo adds:



I felt a little overwhelmed by the number of articles to read, their length and difficulty. In order to understand them, I have to switch to a “study” mode, look up words, re-read the same sentence several times and look for complementary pieces of information in articles in English. I was also quite stressed in September for other reasons, so I didn’t have enough energy left to work on the translations.

I will take some holidays towards the end of October, so there will be no post in the news section next month.