Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Machimura faction tries to untwist the Diet

The Machimura faction, which just gained a new member to solidify its position as the LDP's largest, has delivered a proposal to Prime Minister Fukuda that calls for the drafting of new rules for Diet management in light of the divided Diet. The proposal, according to Asahi, points to a "structural deficiency in the constitution," in that it mandates different methods for dealing with the budget and budget-related bills. As such, it demands that Mr. Fukuda push through rules that provide for the passage of the budget and budget-related bills at approximately the same time.

As usual for LDP and conservative complaints about the post-July political situation, the proposal bemoans how the divided Diet makes it difficult to address Japan's national interests, in this case fixing the country's abysmal fiscal situation. (No mention, of course, as to how that situation came about in the first place.)

May I make the modest proposal that perhaps more democracy is in Japan's national interest, no matter what the impact on public policy (and no matter how insufferable Mr. Ozawa and the DPJ can be at times)?

The rule changes demanded by the Machimura faction are nothing short of anti-democratic, in that they would limit the HC's ability to exercise its constitutional duty to act on a certain type of legislation. The Japanese people voted last year to give control of the House of Councillors to different parties than that controlling the House of Representatives. Just because it has made governing more difficult does not give the LDP the right to manipulate the political process to reverse the consequences of the election.

Fortunately Mr. Fukuda disagrees with the opinion of his faction. He replied by emphasizing that he intends to "take every opportunity to appeal to the opposition parties" for cooperation. And so it should be: as we learned this month, the government and opposition are perfectly capable of cooperating on legislation, despite the media-driven impression of gridlock. The constitution mandated roles for each house, and the LDP should not opportunistically undermine one house just because it's now become a hindrance to LDP rule.

(Incidentally, this is why Japan needs regular alternation of ruling parties: a ruling party aware that it could easily end up in the opposition would perhaps be less blithe about proposing rule changes to handicap the opposition.)


Ross said...

Fukuda is wise to reject the Machimura proposal. It is just the sort of thing to further undermine LDP popularity ahead of the next lower house election.

tornados28 said...

Many people including political scientists believe gridlock is a good thing. A divided government is better that all the power held by one political party. A different kind of checks and balances.

Bryce said...

I am one of those who believe this "gridlock" is a good thing, although I wound prefer the term "strong bicameralism". I wonder what those that think the current "gridlock/stagnation/etc." is a bad thing will say if the LDP loses its supermajority but retains a simple majority at the next election. My guess is that the DPJ will not want to be seen as the irresponsible party holding up UH business and will moderate its position, subject to cooperation from the LDP. They already have been fairly cooperative on getting minor pieces of legislation through. In any case the most important piece of legislation for the year - the budget - can be passed fairly easily.

This *is* the system the conservative elite in Japan prefered when the constitution was being drafted. It's a bit rich for the LDP to be complaining about it now. The Upper House was created to avoid left-wing dominance of the system. Now there is no "left wing" anymore, the LDP now thinks there isn't much use for it. Cynical little things.