In the Loop

In the Loop: September 5, 2008 Archive

What is "Hockey Mom" in Japanese?

Posted at 6:01 PM on September 5, 2008 by Sanden Totten

There's a politician out there who is trying to shake things up for her party. She's photogenic, actually a former TV anchor. She's a reformer. She rates well with rank and file voters. And if she gets elected, she'll be the first of her gender to reach the highest offices of her country.

Photo by Koichi KamoshidaGetty Images 2.jpgNot Sarah Palin. I'm talking about Yuriko Koike.

For our show this week, we spoke with Margarita Estevez-Abe of Harvard University about contenders for the Japanese prime ministership. And when Estevez-Abe started describing Koike, it sounded a lot like someone else we'd been hearing about. As she put it, Koike is kinda like the Japanese Sarah Palin. Actually, Koike has been known in her country much longer than Palin has in hers, so technically Palin is the American Yuriko Koike. But I digress . . . (Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)

Like the U.S., Japan has never had a female in the most prestigious office of the country. Koike may be the one to do it. Unlike Palin, she has some serious national political credentials. She's served as Minister of Defense (though briefly). She's been a special adviser to the Prime Minister for National Security Affairs. And she's popular, even crush-worthy apparently.

I imagine Palin, and also Hillary Clinton would be all about Koike getting the job. But there is a strange twist of fate to this tale for the Japanese.

Right now, Japan has a bitterly divided government. Koike's party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has been in power pretty much since WWII. But the opposition power (Democratic Party of Japan) is rising. They control half the government and because of that they are stopping the LDP from carrying out any of its decisions. Nothing is getting done in Japan. The last two prime ministers resigned because they were powerless in the position. If Koike does become the next Prime Minister, that stifling power dynamic is likely to stay the same. It may be a great step forward for women in her country, but as Estevez-Abe puts it: "that might just prolong Japan's crisis."

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