Kaifu Toshiki became PRIME MINISTER unexpectedly in August 1989 and remained in the post until November 1991, his main qualification being his uncorrupt reputation.
He was born in Aichi in 1931, shone in the Waseda University debating society and was known as an eloquent speaker. He was elected from a Lower House district of Aichi Prefecture at every election between 1960 and 2000. A member of the small MIKI-KŌMOTO faction of the LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY (LDP), as Prime Minister he had neither strong factional backing nor extensive ministerial experience. He was regarded as an educational specialist, having spent two terms as Education Minister.
He became Prime Minister at a low point in LDP fortunes. The party had just lost the Upper House elections of July 1989, following the RECRUIT SCANDAL and unpopular policies such as the imposition of consumption tax. The brief reign of UNO SŌSUKE had come to an ignominious end and the party was looking for an acceptable replacement. Kaifu presented a clean and attractive image. For the first time in 41 years, a joint session of both Houses had to be held to determine who should become Prime Minister, since DOI TAKAKO of the JAPAN SOCIALIST PARTY (JSP) was the choice of the Upper House. Duly elected at that session, Kaifu appointed two women to his first Cabinet (a record number), in a bid to counter Doi's appeal to women. (They did not survive into his second Cabinet, however.)
Kaifu began well, leading his party to a comfortable win in the Lower House elections of February 1990 (though the Socialists won an extra 50 seats, mainly at the expense of minor parties). His weak factional position, however, and the absence of an LDP majority in the Upper House, caused him severe problems. Pressured by the Americans to contribute men and materiél to the force seeking to dislodge Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, Kaifu tried but failed, in October-November 1990, to pass a bill through Parliament authorising despatch of military personnel to the Gulf. When, in 1991, his attempt to reform the Lower House electoral system was vetoed by party elders, he left office.
This was not the end of his career. When an LDP-JSP-NEW PARTY HARBINGER coalition was proposed to replace the Hata minority Government in June 1994, he ran against the Socialist Murayama for the prime ministership with backing from most of the Hata coalition and some dissidents from the LDP and JSP. He was narrowly defeated. When the NEW FRONTIER PARTY (NFP) was constructed by OZAWA ICHIRŌ in December 1994, he was elected leader of it, but replaced a year later by Ozawa in a general vote. When the NFP broke up in December 1997, he joined Ozawa's LIBERAL PARTY (III).
Kaifu had ambitions to reform the political system, but even as Prime Minister was too politically weak to do much about it.
First elected to the HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES in 1969, Kajiyama Seiroku Was a LIBERAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY (LDP)
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Publication information: Book title: Dictionary of the Modern Politics of Japan. Contributors: J. A.A. Stockwin - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 132.
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