Saturday, December 1, 2007

Perilous weeks ahead

Prime Minister Fukuda, as I expected when he was chosen as prime minister in late September, has shown himself to be far more adept than most commentators expected. (And one hears fewer complaints about Mr. Fukuda's being a government of factions — I have no doubt that this is Mr. Fukuda's government.)

But while he has stabilized the LDP and made the best of the opportunities present in the political situation, the next two weeks will determine whether Mr. Fukuda's government is doomed to be short-lived or whether he will able to maneuver his government through perilous straits and survive until September 2009.

LDP officials continue to send mixed signals about the party's (and government's?) thinking about the timing of a general election. Nikai Toshihiro, the chairman of the party's executive council, suggested in a speech Saturday that a general election is "not far" and that the LDP should consider talks on a political realignment or a grand coalition in the aftermath of a general election. Nakasone Yasuhiro, grand old man of the LDP, suggested on Saturday that the LDP make the pursuit of a grand coalition with the DPJ a campaign promise in a general election campaign. Finally, in a sign of the LDP's need to regain the trust of rural Japan, Tanigaki Sadakazu, the PARC chairman, said in a speech in Fukui-ken, "I cannot say what amount of money, but the voice of farm households will be reflected and included in the 2007 supplementary budget." He received complaints about the government's failure to recognize the difficulties faced by farmers.

These remarks suggest that the LDP is thinking hard about calling a snap election sooner rather than later, contrary to recent remarks by Koga Makoto, the LDP's election strategy chairman and fourth senior executive. Or is it? Are these messages designed to keep the opposition off balance?

Meanwhile, should the persistent calls for a grand coalition be construed as a tacit admission of the hopelessness of the LDP's position in a general election? The LDP's election chiefs have made clear that it is giving up on the one-term Koizumi kids, writing them off as sure losers. Considering that Mr. Koizumi's followers are more competitive in more urban districts, does the LDP assume that it has no chance of besting the DPJ in urban Japan? How does the LDP plan to win if not by backing the 2005 incumbents associated with the still-popular Mr. Koizumi? Does the LDP really think that it will draw voters by promising to share power with the DPJ?

All of this could just be designed to keep the DPJ off balance, somehow tricking Mr. Ozawa into appearing unreasonable and undermining the DPJ's public support, but then again, it could be a sign that the LDP is improvising, that Mr. Fukuda doesn't have a plan for dealing with the six unanswered questions of the Diet session. As reported in a recent Mainichi article, the government will exercise prudence as to whether it will extend the Diet session a second time to ensure passage of the anti-terror law.

Prudence, or reading the air the moment of decision?

2 comments:

MTC said...

Observer -

Nakasone's mention of the need for a public promise of a coalition government seems to be more of a warning than a recommendation.

A untrammeled translation of his full statement is something like:

"The two parties should not even dream about crafting a post-election coalition unless they have made clear to the public beforehand that 'depending on the circumstances, the parties, while contesting the election, will leave open the possibility forging bonds of cooperation in order to further the national interest.' Only if you have signaled this possibility to the public BEFORE THE ELECTION would it be proper for the parties to even consider the a post-election hitch-up."

Bryce said...

...which probably means Nakasone wants the LDP to declare its intention to from such a coalition, given his previous statments.

I had alway thought that in an election the Koizumi Kids would be the first to go. It's a sign that the old vested interests have re-entrenched themselves and the "new way of doing things" has almost run its course. The LDP has not turned itself into a more blatent "whole party" version of the Fukuda faction (with the DPJ playing the Tanaka faction) as some have commented and as Koizumi had hoped.