Monday, March 3, 2008

Hosokawa-Koizumi New Party?

Facta, a monthly, has a short item available at Yahoo! Japan's Minna no Seiji site speculating about a February meeting between former prime ministers Hosokawa and Koizumi.

Mr. Hosokawa, who after heading up the first non-LDP government left politics to seclude himself in Kanagawa and work as an artist, met secretly with Mr. Koizumi in late February. They purportedly discussed the formation of a new party that would aim to, of all things, roll back the 1994 electoral reform that was the Hosokawa government's signature achievement. The article suggests that the new party would rest on a foundation of Mr. Koizumi's followers and veterans from Mr. Hosokawa's Japan New Party, including LDP members Koike Yuriko, Ito Tatsuya, Kamoshita Ichiro, as well as DPJ members Hatoyama Yukio, Maehara Seiji, Edano Yukio, Noda Yoshihiko, and Ozawa Sakihito.

As with all-too-many political articles, there is a lot of rumor-mongering but very little concrete information. Why, for example, the fixation of returning to medium-sized, multiple-member districts? Is this interest strictly tactical, an acknowledgment that the current system does not favor the creation of a new party?

What about the defections? Would the individuals mentioned in the article actually be willing to defect? I'm especially curious about the DPJ members provided. I've written about DPJ disaffection with Ozawa Ichiro's leadership in the past — the article includes three members who have been especially vocal at times in their criticism of Mr. Ozawa (Hatoyama, Maehara, and Edano) — but will these members actually defect from the DPJ?

I find LDP defections much more plausible, especially by Koizumians. It seems highly plausible that in the aftermath of an election, when the LDP will likely be torn asunder by a bitter fight for control of the party, the Koizumians will split either to form their own swing party or jump to the DPJ, perhaps making the difference in control of the House of Representatives following a close election.

The pressure in the political system is unmistakably building, and the next general election will likely transform the landscape one way or another. But it's anyone's guess as to what the landscape will look like, because much will depend on the calculations of individuals, Mr. Koizumi included.


Bryce said...

Surely a return to multimember districts will increase the factionalism and intra-party bickering that Koizumi tried so hard to eliminate.

I'm sure this is a silly hoax.

Anonymous said...

If this move to form a new party works out it would be an big move especially if big hitters like Koizumi and Hosokawa join up. Dissatisfaction with the 1994 reforms is not that surprising because I read somewhere that the conversion of the multiseat districts to single seat constituencies backfired. The idea was that it would lead to a multi-party system but the opposite has happened with the return of LDP-Komeito coalition to a dominant position in politics.

Anonymous said...

I would be too quick to judge the 1994 reforms. Until the last election, Japan was very close to reaching a "true" two party system -- which the reforms were meant to do. It was the issue of privatizing the Postal System and Koizumi's popularity that swung the LDP into a large majority. Furthermore, the House of Councillors (Upper House) went through the same 1994 reforms and it has proven to become multiparty.

The next general election will definitely test the 1994 reforms.