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    Yes, of course, even while I was taking a break from the blog, I noticed that Seiji Maehara was stepping down as head of the Democratic Party of Japan, thus reducing the number of I’d-do-him politicians in Japan by approximately 100%. The cause was the disastrous handling of the (beyond wearisome) fake e-mail scandal:

    DPJ Secretary-General Yukio Hatoyama and other top executives will also resign.

    Moreover, Hisayasu Nagata, a DPJ member of the House of Representatives at the center of the scandal, who had stubbornly refused to step down as a legislator, finally agreed Friday to give up his Diet seat. His resignation was accepted by the chamber’s speaker, Yohei Kono, later in the day.

    “I’m solely to blame for causing this problem to expand. As the party leader, I’d like to take responsibility for that,” Maehara told a news conference. “The party should elect a new leader at an early date to fulfill its responsibility as the largest opposition party.”

    Based on an e-mail he had obtained from a former freelance journalist, Nagata falsely accused ruling Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Tsutomu Takebe during a Diet session in mid-February of having collusive relations with Livedoor Co. founder Takafumi Horie.

    However, the DPJ concluded that his claim was groundless after the e-mail, which suggested Horie had ordered that 30 million yen be sent to Takebe’s second son, proved to be fake.

    The Livedoor scandal is one of those things you can’t be an informed resident of Japan without following, but I’ve never found it all that engaging. That there was such a flap over an e-mail, however, was an almost too-perfect symbol of the conflict between the smartypants tech-minded Livedoor crew and the scowling suits who are nostalgic for the Japan Inc. era. Maehara’s insistence about it did seem odd; perhaps he was taking the opportunity to demonstrate some implacability vis-à-vis Prime Minister Koizumi, who, though he’s often not so hot at follow-through, is absolutely brilliant at stagey showdowns.

    In any case, as divisive as his stance on defense and his relative youth were, they at least suggested that the DPJ might be moving in the direction of welcoming fresh thinking about the changing realities Japan is operating in. It’s hard to be hopeful about that given who his potential successors are, though it’s hard to blame DPJ higher-ups who think what’s necessary now is a leader with name recognition, a power base, and a clear relation to the DPJ brand.

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