The February 20th issue of Jinja Shinpō included a long article on a meeting of the Board of Directors of Jinja Honchō, held on the 9th of February. While some ordinary business was conducted, and there was a discussion of the new law about donations (which will get its own blog post soon), the main event seems to have been a big fight over who was the president.
A “big fight” is a slight exaggeration, as they do not appear to have come to blows, but the article explicitly refers to opinions being offered “outside the rules”, which I think means that the directors were not waiting for their turn to speak.
The immediate focus was the court decision handed down in December, and the lawyers for both sides gave presentations on their interpretation. Obviously, the lawyer for Jinja Honchō thought that this settled the case, while the lawyer for Revd Ashihara had a different opinion. Basically, Revd Ashihara’s lawyer thought that the first court had been too narrow in the regulations it had consulted, and while I am not a lawyer, that does strike me as the sort of argument that could well have legal legs.
The court decision says that, if the Board nominates a president, the chairman has to confirm him, and one director suggested a motion calling on the Board to nominate a president. Revd Tanaka asked the directors whether they should vote on a motion to call on the board to nominate a president (that is, he asked for a vote on whether they should vote on whether they should vote…), and this is the point at which people started offering opinions without waiting to be called on. There seem to be two main positions: one that the Board should decide, and one that the issue should be taken to the Oversight Council. In the end, it seems from the report that nothing was actually done about this, although the secretariat indicated that there were eight in favour and five against (of the board taking a vote on whether they should take a vote on who should be the president — although no vote was actually taken on whether they should vote on who should be president, much less on the question of who should be president).
The meeting ran out of time before it could consider the last six items on the agenda (so I hope they weren’t particularly important), and in his closing remarks the chairman noted that there were no signs of resolution, and that court cases and majority votes were, perhaps, not the best way to solve this problem.
I think he is absolutely right about that. The fact that the board did not, in fact, vote to nominate a president is a promising sign, because it means that the larger faction on the board is still avoiding direct confrontation. I hope to see some movement towards a compromise in the near future.