Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Low posture to blame for Fukuda's problems?

In Japanese postwar political history, the phrase "low posture" — 低姿勢, teishisei — is most associated with Prime Minister Ikeda Hayato (1960-1964). No mere slogan, the phrase signaled an end to the Kishi era, which ended in violence in the streets of Tokyo.

The Ikeda era would be one of "tolerance and patience," of working with the opposition to formulate policy.

The phrase subsequently became associated with the LDP mainstream as embodied by the Kochikai — indeed, it became part of the furniture of LDP rule under the 1955 system. Even Fukuda Takeo, the current prime minister's father, who was associated with the anti-mainstream Kishi faction, declared his commitment to a "low posture" in Diet proceedings in August 1977: "As for Diet management, for my government and the LDP, in facing other parties we must have a low posture...So, concerning important policy, before the government decides we want to ask for everyone's opinions as much as possible."

Of course, the flip side of the declared commitment to a low posture was the inevitable criticism from opposition parties when the government reportedly failed to adhere to this stance. Prime Minister Ikeda was not immune, as in the later years of his government, Socialist Diet members regularly claimed that his low posture was just a political maneuver to placate the public before elections.

Fukuda Yasuo is but the latest adherent of the LDP's low posture school to serve as prime minister — and according to Sankei, the Fukuda cabinet's troubles illustrate the "bankruptcy" of the low posture and the need for a firmer line with the DPJ. In an article that sounds suspiciously editorial-like, the newspaper suggests that there are "omens" that Mr. Fukuda is set to abandon the cooperative posture he adopted upon taking office.

It seems that Mr. Fukuda's — and the LDP's — problem is that its posture hasn't nearly been low enough. While the government has been sparing in its use of its HR supermajority, it has acted as if the supermajority gives it the ability to dictate terms to the DPJ and the HC. Prior consultation? Genuine deference to the DPJ's positions? The government has preferred to submit its proposals and then attempt to hammer out a compromise after the fact. MTC ably demonstrates how the government's poor time management is indicative of the Fukuda government's attitude towards the DPJ. In the months since being denied its grand coalition with the DPJ, the LDP has preferred to gripe about the DPJ's failure to be a "responsible" opposition party than to forge realistic and working cooperation as necessary with the HC's largest party. If any government deserves to be criticized for announcing a "low posture" as a political ploy, the Fukuda government is it.

The government still has not come to terms with the idea that unless it wants to govern solely by Article 59 and leave important posts unfilled, it has no choice but to work with the DPJ. And so the BOJ governorship is occupied by an interim governor (has the sky fallen yet?) and the Japanese people are about to get a nice tax cut come April 1.

2 comments:

Mr. Noah said...

To be fair to the LDP, submitting proposals and then working on compromises later seems to be the norm for parties around the world, opposition and majority alike. Prior consultation with the opposition - even with a divided legislature - is, to my knowledge, the exception, rather than the rule.

I'd say the LDP's fault these days lies more with its failure to give up a reasonable amount of ground, and - especially - its failure to appeal to the public in support of its desired policies.

Japan Observer said...

Maybe so, but for the government to talk about how urgent the problems facing the nation are but then dictate terms to the opposition is a bit underhanded to me.

Another problem that I left unmentioned is that Mr. Fukuda hasn't exactly been free to compromise with the DPJ as much as he might like to, since he has had to fend off opposition either from within the party, or, in the case of the refueling mission, from the US.