Sunday, November 11, 2007

Election talk

The second phase of the extraordinary session of the Diet has begun, and the talk is largely of snap elections and censure votes.

Policy, as Jun Okumura suggests, has pretty much taken a back seat to politics as both parties continue to position themselves in the new political landscape.

The immediate challenge is the prospect of the DPJ's passing a non-binding censure motion against Prime Minister Fukuda should the government use its Lower House supermajority to pass the new anti-terror law over Upper House opposition. Mr. Fukuda has suggested that he would call a general election in response to a censure motion. While Hatoyama Yukio argued that the DPJ should not sell this weapon cheaply, the chances of the DPJ's Upper House caucus pushing for a censure motion are high.

But why can't Mr. Fukuda ignore it? The power of a non-binding censure motion derives entirely from perceptions. If Mr. Fukuda were to dismiss the motion as an abuse of the powers of the Upper House by the DPJ for partisan purposes, would the Japanese public dismiss his reasoning outright?

As far as the government is concerned, both Ota Akihiro, Komeito chief, and Ishiba Shigeru, defense minister, have rejected the idea of an early election, even as the DPJ announces plans to ratchet up its preparations for a general election.

I still remain dubious about the prospects for an early election anytime before the passage of the budget in the spring — and even then, I think the LDP may be able to hold off, especially if Mr. Ozawa is sincere about his critique of his party's inadequacies and the need for some form of cooperation.


Janne Morén said...

One thing I really don't understand, coming as I do from a different political culture, is why DPJ's threat of a censure motion has any kind of relevance whatsoever for LDP/New Komeito? It's non-binding, so there are no legal or procedural repercussions as far as I can tell; they can completely ignore it if they want.

What they seem to be concerned about is public perception. But I wonder:

* what proportion of the voting public will even hear about, grasp, and care about a censure motion and its dismissal;

* What proportion of those would actually ever consider changing their party preference for any reason whatsoever;

* of those people, what proportion will think that this is inherently wrong? You can reasonably take the stand that the political procedural system allows LDP/Komeito to ignore it with their supermajority - a power gained in a general election - and thus there is nothing inherently wrong with ignoring it;

* of the people who do think it is wrong, how many will actually remember this and attach any significance to it in a general election a year or two out - a year or two with fresh scandals and new developments?

Or, in other words, with parties largely devoted to holding power rather than adhering to any particular political or ideological stance, why the concern of the opinions of what must be a fairly small group of voters that would actually try to disturb said holding of power over this?

Anonymous said...

I have a question that probably only you can answer.
In the parliamentary process the actual decisions are not made by debating in public in the parliament but in closed session committees.
The intention of this is obiviously to give the members of the parliament the ability to speak more openly about the various subjects that the committee has to decide upon.
Now in Germany the guideline for the transcripts of those committees is that after two legislative periods those transcripts can be viewed by the public ( So if I want to I can go and look up what the closed session opinions of my "Bundestagsabgeordneter" were in the 14th Period - we are now in the 16th Period.

How is this issue handled in Japan - and if you know - how does America handle this issue?
And another thing. Are the transcripts of the various pressclubs available to the wider public after a certain period?
(So that you read what the spokesman of the government said not what he meant according to the media...)

Thank you and have a nice day

P.S. I asked some japanese students that learn german here in Germany but sadly nobody knew the answers to those questions...