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Wednesday, 14 February, 2001, 12:23 GMT
Mori: Gaffe-prone leader
Mori
Mori: Notorious for his lack of political correctness
In his 11 months in power, Yoshiro Mori has gone from relative obscurity to being one of Japan's most unpopular prime ministers in history.

Much of this is down to a seemingly unerring knack to put his foot in his mouth or do the wrong thing at just the wrong moment.


Why is this a problem of crisis management? It's not that at all. It's an accident

Yoshiro Mori
Mr Mori has most recently been under attack from all quarters for playing golf while news broke that a ship carrying high school students had sunk after colliding with a US submarine.

He has assured a place in the headlines through an astonishing series of gaffes, from recalling Japanese wartime militarism to urging voters to stay in bed.

The prime minister stirred up a storm of controversy within weeks of taking office last April when he described Japan as a "divine country" centred on the emperor.

Yoshiro Mori
Burly rugby player with his foot in his mouth
The comments evoked memories of a brutal imperial Japan that invaded Asia in the name of the emperor-god in the 1930s and 40s.

He later criticised the opposition for endangering Japan's "kokutai", an archaic term used for a Japanese nation-state ruled by a divine emperor.

He even put his foot in it at his first news conference as prime minister, when he referred to China using an old word now considered derogatory.

Party gag

And just days before last year's election, Mr Mori told wavering voters - an estimated 40% of the electorate - to stay in bed on polling day.


They say 40% of the voters are still undecided. Those people who aren't interested should just stay in bed

Yoshiro Mori
His Liberal Democratic Party lost its simple majority in the lower house.

His slips of the tongue became such a problem during the election campaign that party leaders issued a public call for him to button his lip.

He has spoken mostly from cue cards since late last summer. But that has not stopped a torrent of verbal indiscretions.

In one of his more damaging recent gaffes, he suggested in October that a dispute with North Korea over Japanese whom Tokyo says were kidnapped by Pyongyang could be solved by having them found in a third country.

Noodles v guns

Mr Mori may have been in the spotlight for less than a year, but he was upsetting people long before taking power.


Japan is a divine nation centring on the emperor

Yoshiro Mori
His speech in Japan's second city of Osaka back in 1998 is unlikely to have won many friends.

"Lowbrow sex industries are always created first in Osaka," he told a party seminar. "Excuse my language, but it is a spittoon."

In January 2000 he did little to endear himself to Aids sufferers in what he intended as a self-effacing joke about his first election campaign in 1969.


Excuse my language, but Osaka is a spittoon

Yoshiro Mori, speaking in Osaka
Mr Mori quipped that the voters could not have vanished faster if he was an Aids patient.

The following month he used the millennium computer bug scare to illustrate differences between Japan and its ally, the United States.

"When there was a Y2K problem, the Japanese bought water and noodles. Americans bought pistols and guns," he said.

"If a blackout happens there, gangsters and murderers will always come out. It is that kind of society."

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See also:

27 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
New blow for Japanese Government
16 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan: A divine country?
21 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan row over sleepy voters
02 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fresh blow for Japan PM
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