Monday, October 1, 2007

The LDP readies its bill

On the heels of Mr. Fukuda's maiden speech to the Diet, the government has outlined a new bill on the MSDF mission in the Indian Ocean and will begin working with relevant cabinet ministers and within the governing coalition to hammer out a final draft, before appealing to the DPJ to cooperate.

Perhaps, then, Jun Okumura is right: a perfunctory effort to get the DPJ to sign on, then a quick push through the House of Representatives by mid-October (Jun said October 16th), meaning that the sixty-day waiting period would end sometime in December. It seems that the government will be unable to avoid extending the Diet session into December.

The terms of the government's draft, accordingly to Asahi, are much more limited than the special measures law, stripping the mission down to its refueling core (instead of also being permitted to do searches and disaster relief). Acknowledging opposition criticism, the government will provide information on the mission at fixed intervals — and it will acknowledge the farcical UN resolution as a basis for action. The LDP wants the bill to last two years, but apparently Komeito would prefer only one.

But any differences within the coalition will presumably be ironed out. It seems that Mr. Fukuda may be able to achieve what Mr. Abe couldn't, with minimal turbulence. The DPJ will ask its questions and demand documents — it has already begun its parliamentary inquest — but it won't be able to do much more than delay the inevitable. Mr. Ozawa may still be able to spin it as a victory of some kind, saying that he stood up to both the government and the US and refused to cave, but it seems that it won't serve as the rallying cry that perhaps the DPJ leadership intended when it took this stance after the election.

In other words, in with a bang, out with a whimper.

1 comment:

AC said...

I think you're right in that this is what the LDP is likely to do -- if all goes well through December. The real battle, however, will be in the arena of public opinion.

The DPJ is going to do its best to lash the MSDF issue to the Iraq war in the public mind, and the party now has investigative powers courtesy of its majority in the Upper House. If the DPJ succeeds, such as by presenting information to back up recent allegations regarding the refueling operation, public opinion may turn back against an extension.

If that happens, the LDP might not be so keen to use the coalition's two-thirds majority in the Lower House to overturn a rejection of the bill by the Upper House, something that has never happened in Japan. And even if the LDP is ready to defy public opinion, New Komeito might not be willing to go along.

There's a lot of time between now and December.