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Chapter Two
Period of President Ishibashi's Leadership

After Hatoyama retired, Tanzan Ishibashi was elected as the second President of the Liberal Democratic Party.

The task of choosing individuals to serve in the new administration was made especially difficult by the fact that competition within the LDP for the Presidency had been so fierce.

Prime Minister Ishibashi took this into consideration when he decided to form his government according to the following guidelines - (1) in order to increase unity within the party, the most suitable person shall be chosen for each post, regardless of faction membership; (2) due to the importance of economic policy, special emphasis will be placed on the selection of individuals for cabinet posts with economic portfolios; (3) the posts of LDP Secretary-General and Chief Cabinet Secretary will be filled by persons of the Prime Minister's choosing. He then appointed Takeo Miki as the Party Secretary-General and Shigemasa Sunada as the Chairman of the General Council.

The 26th Ordinary Session of the Diet was convened on December 20, 1956. Voting began at 4 o'clock in the afternoon in both houses and shortly thereafter, Ishibashi was chosen as the 55th Prime Minister. The task of forming a cabinet, however, was more difficult than expected and no agreement was reached even into the next day. Consequently, Ishibashi was the only individual to be sworn into office at an Imperial investiture ceremony held in the morning of December 23, three days after he had been elected as Prime Minister. With Ishibashi temporarily charged with fulfilling the duties and conducting the administrative work of the entire cabinet, his administration got off to a highly unusual start.

In the afternoon of December 23, the selection of cabinet ministers was finally completed. These individuals were then sworn into office at an Imperial attestation ceremony conducted in the evening of the same day. Unfortunately, new difficulties arose when LDP members in the House of Councillors, who had been allocated three cabinet seats, recommended former Navy Admiral Kichisaburo Nomura for the post of Defense Agency Director General. Since this ran counter to Article 66 of the Constitution which stipulates that all Ministers of State must be civilians, the House of Councillors LDP members' candidates could not be accepted and Prime Minister Ishibashi was once again forced to serve concurrently in two or three other posts. It was not until February of 1957 that Akira Kotaki was appointed as Director General of the Defense Agency.

Because of his background and affable personality, Ishibashi was often referred to as the “people's prime minister.” In addition to an aggressive economic agenda built around a “100 billion yen tax cut” (issen oku genzei) and other measures worth an additional “100 billion yen” (issen oku shisaku), he dedicated his administration to fulfilling the following “Five Pledges” - (1) improving standards of professional conduct among public servants; (2) building a welfare state; (3) boosting levels of employment and production; (4) normalizing the operations of the National Diet; and (5) working for world peace. These policies proved immensely popular and the Ishibashi Cabinet enjoyed high public approval ratings.

Unfortunately, by the early spring of 1957 the stress of national campaign tours and difficulties encountered during the compilation of the budget had taken their toll on Ishibashi's health. Explaining that he felt compelled to follow his “political conscience,” Ishibashi submitted his resignation on February 22. His cabinet, which had been in existence for only nine weeks, soon followed suit. In spite of this, Prime Minister Ishibashi's exemplary professionalism had made a lasting impression on both politicians and the general public.

The material legacy of the Ishibashi Cabinet was understandably limited by the brevity of its 65-day tenure. It consisted largely of the pledges Ishibashi made as he toured the country and the policy speeches Foreign Minister Kishi gave on Ishibashi's behalf in the Diet while he (Kishi) was serving as acting Prime Minister. However, Ishibashi's career and graceful withdrawal from public life had provided the world with an example of professional ethics that earned him the respect even of opposition parties. His departure was accompanied by an outpouring of popular sympathy and praise.

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