Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Political Japan's never-ending year goes on

After this past week's drama, the LDP and the DPJ are now returning to business. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is in town for his first visit since taking office, with a packed agenda of issues of concern; Nagata-cho is abuzz with rumors about an early election to be called by the LDP to catch the DPJ off balance. Indeed, Hatoyama Yukio suggested that with the DPJ in tough straits, the government may opt to "ask the people for their trust" and call a general election. "It is thought to be entirely possible for a dissolution by the end of the year and a general election in January." (Is the DPJ trying to make Mr. Fukuda and the LDP overconfident so that they might opt for a general election and quite likely throw away the supermajority?)

In any case, it looks like there will be another month of the sparring and rumormongering, as the Fukuda government has announced plans to extend the extraordinary — and extraordinary — session of the Diet another thirty-five days to enable his government to pass a new law authorizing the MSDF refueling mission in the Indian Ocean. The government hopes to have the bill pass the Lower House by early next week at the latest, which will then dare the DPJ to reject it in the Upper House.

The never-ending Diet session, which began, you'll recall, nearly two months ago with then-Prime Minister Abe's giving an oddly belligerent maiden speech before resigning two days later, forcing the Diet to wait while the LDP selected a new leader. Since then we've had sniping across the Pacific, the justice minister's suggesting that he's two degrees of separation from a member of Al Qaeda, the withdrawal of MSDF ships from the Indian Ocean, and the bizarre saga of Ozawa Ichiro's resignation that wasn't.

All of this, of course, is on top of events earlier in the year: the decline and fall of Mr. Abe, the demise of Matsuoka Toshikatsu, the as-of-yet unresolved pensions scandal, the LDP's historic defeat in July, and who knows how many other episodes of note that I've already forgotten.

And for all that, here we are, with momentum in the LDP's favor as it renews its push for a new law in support of coalition operations in Afghanistan.

In spite of (or maybe because of?) the grand coalition debacle, the LDP is redoubling its efforts to secure some manner of coordination with the DPJ. According to a Sankei headline, in fact, the government and the LDP are making "amorous glances" to the DPJ in pursuit of policy cooperation. The DPJ, facing the prospect of the government's anti-terror bill hitting the Upper House soon, has agreed on the basic outline of its counter proposal and will have it ready for presentation next week. The DPJ apparently intends to include a proposal for sea lane defense, as well as civilian support for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Whether the parties will cooperate on this issue remains to be seen, but as Jun Okumura rightly points out, there are other, less controversial areas where the two parties can easily cooperate. It's just a question of whether the DPJ can stifle its self-destructive, confrontational urges and shake hands with Mr. Fukuda.

2 comments:

MTC said...

Observer -

Instead of "neverending", how about "never beginning"? I have only the vaguest sense, thanks mostly to Okumura-san's posts, of anything having been achieved...aside from a serious cooking of Moriya's goose, that is.

Japan Observer said...

Perhaps a series of false starts...

Perfect subject matter for Samuel Beckett.