The Yomiuri ShimbunGiven his series of controversial remarks, there is no alternative but to say he lacked the qualities of a cabinet minister. Yoshitaka Sakurada’s resignation as minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games can be regarded as unavoidable.
His resignation came after he said during a party held for a Liberal Democratic Party member of the lower house from Iwate Prefecture that she was more important than the reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake. He lacked consideration for disaster victims, and it can only be said that his statement lacked common sense.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe effectively removed Sakurada from his post and acknowledged his responsibility for the appointment of Sakurada. After apologizing for Sakurada’s controversial statement, Abe said, “We’ll devote all of our energy to reconstruction while showing empathy to those affected by the disaster.”
If Sakurada’s remark was left unaddressed under the government slogan of “Olympics and Paralympics for reconstruction,” the Abe Cabinet’s stance could be called into question. Considering its possible impact on the House of Representatives by-elections and this summer’s House of Councillors poll, Abe is believed to have judged it necessary to resolve the issue of Sakurada’s controversial statement as soon as possible.
Since assuming the post last October, Sakurada had repeatedly made factual errors and mistaken remarks. Not a few of his verbal gaffes hurt people’s feelings and included statements that called his wisdom into question. There is no denying that his resignation came too late.
Diet debate focused on Sakurada’s qualities as a cabinet minister, thus making it impossible to deepen deliberations on the state of preparations for the Tokyo Olympics and measures to ensure cybersecurity, both of which he was in charge of.
In a cabinet reshuffle last year, there was a strong aspect of Abe allocating cabinet posts to certain party factions as a reward for their support for his third straight win in the election for the LDP presidency, the post that assured him the prime ministership.
Abe must show leadership
If the principle of putting the right person in the right position is neglected, there will be a price to pay eventually. Abe, who has authority over the appointment of his ministers, must once again take this to heart.
Sakurada has been replaced by Shunichi Suzuki, a lawmaker from Iwate Prefecture who has experience in the post and is well informed of the situation in disaster-stricken areas. Urgent efforts must be made to regain the public’s confidence.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held in slightly more than one year. The government still has many challenges to resolve, including strengthening crisis management measures such as those against cyber-attacks, and easing traffic congestion and preparing for the heat. The ministries and agencies concerned are called on to cooperate closely in tackling these tasks, working from specific plans.
What cannot be overlooked is that the Abe Cabinet lacks a sense of tension.
Ichiro Tsukada, state minister of land, infrastructure, transport and tourism, resigned as recently as April 5 over his careless remark regarding construction of a road linking the home prefectures of Prime Minister Abe and Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso.
It can be said to be very serious if wishful thinking prevails within the LDP that amid the party’s continued dominance of the political scene, “it’s all right even if we get carried away somewhat.”
If the LDP neglects its serious responsibility as a governing party, it will lose the public’s support at once. Abe must display leadership and tighten his control over party members.
The people’s weariness toward the long tenure of the Abe administration has been spreading. It is essential to eliminate political inertia and set policy goals, and then carry them out one by one.