Sunday, November 18, 2007

Early election? Maybe not

Answering a question on election timing during a visit to Akita prefecture, Koga Makoto, the LDP's election strategy chairman, said, "It's good if done slowly. The term of office has another two years. We cannot possibly attain two-thirds of the seats. By this way of thinking, the end of the term is good."

This is, of course, no different from what most observers of Japanese politics have been saying for months now, since rumors of a snap election began proliferating in Nagata-cho last spring.

I do not think, however, that Mr. Koga's will be the last words on this subject. It may be what Mr. Koga, Mr. Fukuda, and other LDP leaders hope for — if I were an LDP backbencher, especially a first-term LDP backbencher, I would be angry if this isn't what they're thinking — but the LDP and the DPJ are engaged in a bit of parry and thrust on the subject of a snap election. The DPJ, vacillating between despondency about its electoral prospects and eagerness for a snap election, has dropped hints of a censure motion in the Upper House in the hopes that it will force Mr. Fukuda to call an election and effectively give up his government's supermajority. The government, meanwhile, has dropped hints of an early election, perhaps out of a desire to lure the DPJ into taking a more confrontational stance, potentially angering voters.

Where does Mr. Koga's statement fit in this scheme? A way to coax the DPJ to cooperate? An honest statement of the LDP executive's thinking? Mr. Koga and the Fukuda government may be trying to calm the political situation, draining some of the tension out of the nejire kokkai by reminding the DPJ, the media, and the public that the government can wait nearly two years before calling an election, and therefore it's necessary to think practically about how to formulate policy in the meantime.

1 comment:

Bryce said...

Of course, waiting out your term when you are in charge of a government with so many unresolved and potentially volatile problems can be dangerous. It's sometimes better to go to the country when things are temporarily in your favour then risk being boxed in to a set date. Not saying that anything looks rosy for the LDP at the moment, but if Fukuda can broker a deal with Ozawa and then keep the peace for a few months that will erode public confidence in the DPJ at the same time as making Fukuda look the part as leader.

Looking at the mayoral election in Osaka, though, it seems Ozawa's recent shenannigans haven't done much to stem the popularity bleeding away from the LDP.