Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fukuda answers some questions

After weeks of uncertainty, Prime Minister Fukuda has moved to answer definitively the six unanswered questions of the current Diet session, answering at least two of them by announcing that he will use the government's supermajority in the House of Representatives to pass the new anti-terror law, and he will extend the Diet session into January in order that the bill will be sent back to the Lower House should the Upper House not act on it within sixty days.

At the same time, Maehara Seiji, a deputy chief of the DPJ and potential thorn in the side for Mr. Ozawa, is making noise again for the first time since August, when there were rumblings of discontent over the DPJ leadership's opposition to the MSDF refueling mission. He is once again criticizing the DPJ for its failure to think of Japan's national interests and warned, "In the event that we quit without the session being extended, the Indian Ocean activities will be suspended for a long time. If there is a dissolution from this, our party will be in trouble."

MTC suggests that the DPJ's immediate response to the above course of action by the LDP will be a censure motion in the Upper House.

The consequences of this chain of events, however, are still unclear and will remain so right up until the moment they transpire. The potency of the weapons possessed by each side still depends largely on public and media support. If the government can somehow get the public to break its way, at least enough so that Mr. Fukuda can spin it as a trend in his favor, then he may be in a position to ignore the non-binding censure resolution and carry on as if nothing happened. A trend the other way, harder to ignore. Will the public continue to remain non-committal through all of this?

As for Mr. Maehara, to date, Mr. Maehara has been long on sound and fury, short on action. I think that he will continue to toe the Ozawa line when forced to choose, but then again, it is in moments like this that the whims and caprices of a disgruntled actor like Mr. Maehara could become very important, if not in terms of numbers — if Mr. Ozawa would have found it difficult to destroy the DPJ's position in the Upper House by leaving the party, would Mr. Maehara find it any easier? — then in terms of perceptions regarding the fitness of the DPJ as a credible contender.

In any case, his remarks mean that we haven't heard the last of the 政治再編 (political realignment) in the Japanese press, that panacea for all of political Japan's problems on the lips of commentators, even though few seem able to sketch out exactly what it would look like.

2 comments:

Bryce said...

How much of a threat is Maehara? Has he regained his credibility after his handling of the fake mail scandal?

Andrew Oplas said...

I would expect the LDP and Prime Minister to start taking a harder line on the MSDF bill shortly. Yesterday Bunmei Ibuki (Sec.Gen - LDP) at a press conference came down hard on Ozawa for leading 45 Diet members on a trip to China in the middle of a session of the Diet and also pointed out repeatedly that the MSDF impasse does not reflect the DPJ's opposition to government policy, rather it reflects Ozawa's views.

One man is holding up progress of the entire government, and he is in China. At least this is the line the LDP is taking... and I think it is a very strong argument.

One gets the feeling things could turn sour for the DPJ pretty soon unless they decide to at least put out feelers to cooperate. How long will the public put up with an unfunctioning, posturing political quagmire?