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INTERNATIONAL NOTES: Through the Black Mist

2 minute read

Japan’s ebullient new Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka dissolved the national Diet last week to prepare the way for the country’s twelfth postwar general elections on Dec. 10. Tanaka, who was chosen Prime Minister only four months ago, wanted to hold off until next year. The leaders of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party, however, were anxious to capitalize on the “Tanaka boom”—the surge of popularity caused by his quick action in achieving détente with China.

As it happens, the opposition was also eager to put Tanaka to the test. In the closing days of the Diet session, Socialist and Communist deputies furiously attacked what they described as the “black mist” of suspected corruption in the Prime Minister’s long and checkered political career. Specifically Tanaka’s opponents charged that, during the years that he served as Finance Minister and Secretary General of the Liberal Democrats, his real estate firm benefited hugely from a series of government land deals.

Tanaka was understandably furious at the accusations, and he may in fact have been hurt somewhat by the corruption charges. Nonetheless, his unorthodox down-to-earth style still seems to be popular with the Japanese electorate. The betting is that Japan’s new prime minister will almost certainly lead the Liberal Democrats to their tenth straight victory. At the worst, his lieutenants believe, the L.D.P.’s seats in the lower house of the Diet may drop from 297 (out of 491) to around 280, with the Communists and Socialists the likely gainers.

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