Sunday, November 4, 2007

The DPJ stares into the abyss

Learning of Mr. Ozawa's intention to resign while in Nagoya, Hatoyma Yukio said, "I have received it, but I cannot accept it." He subsequently returned to Tokyo to consult with Mr. Ozawa.

The public sentiment among party leaders seems to be a desire for Mr. Ozawa to stay, but whether that desire stems from an appreciation of his leadership qualities or a fear of the chaos that will likely characterize the "post-Ozawa" era. The genuine shock emanating from the DPJ leadership strikes me as indicative of a lack of preparation in the party for the Ozawa succession. Messrs. Kan, Hatoyama, and the rest of the party apparently put their trust and hopes in Mr. Ozawa and were not prepared to deal with his departure.

While Mr. Ozawa left open the possibility of staying based on the appeals of his colleagues, it seems that reversing his decision at this point would do little more than deepen the turmoil and perhaps even force a rupture.

It seems to me that Mr. Ozawa has burned his bridges: "Doubts have been continually raised from the people, 'The LDP's hopeless, but does the DPJ truly have the ability to wield political power?" That strikes me as an odd complaint for the outgoing leader of a party to make, particularly for a leader criticized for his dictatorial control of the party. What did Mr. Ozawa do to address those doubts? He certainly exploited public dissatisfaction with the LDP effectively, but it's not clear to me that he had a constructive plan to demonstrate the DPJ's seriousness.

The concern now is that Mr. Ozawa will leave the party, with party members beginning to guess how many members he could take with him.

This succession crisis might get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

1 comment:

Bryce said...

I wonder if his illness has anything to do with this. It would be odd if it were. Barely a month ago Abe is beaten politically and blames his resignation on illness; Yesterday Ozawa decides he's sick and claims his resignation is due to political defeat.

We'll know if he comes back. Ozawa has always held up the two party adversarial system as a model for Japan's parliament. In such systems it's customary for there to be little ideological space between members of the same party. That's obviously not true of the DPJ.

The trouble for Ozawa is that I'm not sure it's possible to mould an opposition party around a set of coherent principles while the LDP exists in its current form. They claim too many of his potential members.