Showing posts with label anti-terror special measures law. Show all posts
Showing posts with label anti-terror special measures law. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

All or nothing at all

June is approaching, and that means we're one month closer to the expiration of the anti-terror special measures law passed in January via Article 59.

Both parties are stepping up their preparations for the fight over a new bill that will likely occur in the autumn special session.

When the Fukuda government agreed to Komeito's demand to limit the bill to one year, I assumed that by doing so the government was implicitly declaring that the refueling mission would last for one year and no longer, that the government would not be inclined to fight the same battle all over again the following year. That may still be the case, but for now it appears that not only is the government willing to fight to extend the refueling mission again, but it wants to up the ante by passing a permanent law on JSDF dispatch that will obviate the need for a new anti-terror bill.

To that end, the LDP-Komeito project team responsible for drawing up the dispatch law held its first meeting last week. The PT offered three principles: (1) it will respect the limits of the constitution and not ask for a new constitutional interpretation that permits collective self-defense; (2) it will respect civilian control and Diet approval; and (3) the government — as opposed to an individual member — will submit the bill. The LDP would like to submit a bill at the beginning of the special session, presumably in order to leave the government time to use Article 59 to override HC rejection in the event of DPJ intransigence, but it appears that Komeito wants to go slowly on this issue.

The DPJ, meanwhile, will have none of it. Hatoyama Yukio, DPJ secretary-general, announced last week that the DPJ will not change its position on the refueling mission: the party's answer is still no. As for a permanent JSDF dispatch law, Mr. Hatoyama was circumspect, not surprisingly given that the DPJ suggested previously that it might be willing to support such a law. He stated simply, "It is impossible for a cabinet with low approval ratings to accomplish this."

The DPJ's position is obviously open to revision, thanks in part to Ozawa Ichiro's mercurial tendencies. But the pressure is on the government to determine the best course of action. That decision will obviously depend on whether Mr. Fukuda survives long enough to make it. I suspect that if Mr. Fukuda is still in office at the start of the next Diet session, and if his numbers haven't improved, he will be disinclined to commit to a fight on either a permanent dispatch or a new refueling bill. The agenda will be crowded enough as the prime minister seeks to pass his plan to end the road construction fund into law, and Mr. Fukuda will be poorly positioned to fight a separate battle on foreign policy. In place of the refueling mission, he might entertain a discussion with the DPJ on aid to Afghanistan in another form.

As such, while Mr. Fukuda mentioned the refueling mission in a line in his address last week and said "we must continue" the mission, I suspect we will hear less about it as the summer progresses. (It's also worth noting that the prime minister mentioned the refueling mission not in the context of the US-Japan alliance but in the context of Japan's acting as "peace cooperation state.")

It will likely be all or nothing at all: permanent dispatch law, or the ships come home again.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Use of force

"Japan PM forces navy bill through" — BBC.

"Japan's ruling party steamrolled a new anti-terrorism law through parliament." — Morning Brief, Foreign Policy Passport.

"Japan's ruling coalition forced a bill through parliament today..." — LA Times (AP)

"Fukuda forces through law on Japanese naval deployment" — International Herald Tribune (NYT)

"Japan forces through terror law" — Financial Times

Anyone else detect a theme here? The Western press coverage (with the exception of the AFP, it seems) of the passage of the new anti-terror special measures law emphasized the supposed aggressiveness of the government's action — echoing the DPJ, whose secretary general, Hatoyama Yukio, described it as "outrageous" — and highlighted the rarity of the use of a supermajority in the HR to override the HC.

Of course it's rare: when was the last time the government had an HR supermajority at the same time that the largest opposition party was in control of the HC?

So the emphasis on the "forcefulness" of the measure is, I think, mistaken. The word "force" implies that this step was undemocratic. But Mr. Fukuda is entirely within his rights. The constitution gives the HR the right to overrule the HC if it has a sufficient number of votes. Just because this right has rarely been exercised does not make it any more forceful. It simply reflects the singularity of the present moment in Japanese politics, in which the LDP has had to take an extraordinary step to pass a high-priority measure.

If the constitutional legitimacy is beyond dispute, the political legitimacy of the act is uncertain, more open to dispute and more likely to change over time, depending on what the Fukuda government does in the coming months. I suspect that the consequences of using the supermajority will be limited. I am sure that Mr. Fukuda would have preferred not to have to pass the law this way, but the fate of his government will not rest upon this decision. If the LDP's majority is to shrink or be lost entirely in a general election, it will be due to the accretion of policy failures and cases of misgovernance, in which case the use of the supermajority to override the HR will be cited as but one case among many illustrating the LDP's failures. Meanwhile, in the event that the Fukuda government is able to sort out the pensions problem and recapture the mantle of reform in advance of the next general election, I expect that the Japanese people will forgive the government for its supposed transgression on this issue.

Indeed, yesterday was a happy day for Prime Minister Fukuda. Not only was his government able to pass this bill after months of uncertainty, finally removing it from the center of the parliamentary agenda, but the process of passing the bill exposed the rifts within the parliamentary opposition. As I noted previously, the DPJ was forced to change its approach to the bill in the HC due to pressure from other opposition parties, which wanted the HC (and thus the DPJ) to take a clear stance in opposition to the government. In HR deliberations on the bill Friday, DPJ President Ozawa Ichiro left the chamber abruptly and abstained from voting on the bill. Mr. Hatoyama claimed that Mr. Ozawa had duties to attend to in relation to the forthcoming Osaka gubernatorial election, but Mr. Ozawa's hasty departure prompted charges of "irresponsibility" from both the LDP and other opposition parties.

Whatever the reason for Mr. Ozawa's departure, there is no question that the manner in which this bill passed was a personal defeat for Mr. Ozawa, who preferred that the HC let the sixty-day waiting period pass without the DPJ having to register its opposition in an HC vote. As MTC argued in this post, the endgame of the anti-terror bill exposed the DPJ's dependence on Socialists and Communists in its opposition to the government, due to the DPJ's holding a plurality — not an outright majority — in the Upper House.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Out with a whimper

Whether as a result of pressure from its fellow opposition partners or because of an epiphany that the struggle over the anti-terror law is over, the DPJ has changed its mind once again and decided that it will reject the government's bill outright instead of waiting for the sixty days to pass.

The HC Foreign Affairs Committee will act on the bill today, the whole house will act on the bill tomorrow morning, and by tomorrow afternoon the HR will pass the bill a second time (only the third time that the HR has overruled the HC).

And so a struggle that began in the early hours following the DPJ's victory in July HC election, contributed to Prime Minister Abe's demise, and sparked a war of words between US Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer and DPJ leader Ozawa Ichiro (and contributed to tension between the US and Japan more generally) will come to an end tomorrow afternoon. The MSDF will resume its refueling activities in the Indian Ocean for at least another year and the Diet will move on to more important things.

What have we learned from this episode?

Politically speaking, it seems that aside from a handful of defense specialists in both the LDP and the DPJ, there is remarkably little desire in either party to have a serious discussion about the future of Japanese foreign policy and the relationship with the US. Not unlike the 1990 debate over Japan's participation in the Gulf War, the debate never moved beyond mundane details to consider broader principles.

We also learned that the Japanese people also have little interest or desire for a broad and substantive debate about Japan's role in the world — and do not want their government fiddling with foreign policy while their pensions vanish.

Finally, and most significantly, we learned just how fragile the US-Japan relationship is today. (We learned this because this feud occurred at the same time that a fissure formed over North Korea.) Each ally's expectations of the other remain misaligned, and we may look back on this debate as Japan's first furtive step to say no overtly to the US. Saying no need not be a bad thing, but the future of the alliance will depend on what the US and Japan do next.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Censure motion on hold for now

As the close of the Diet session approaches — and with it, the presumed re-passage of the new anti-terror bill in the HR — the DPJ has announced that it is reconsidering submitting an HC censure motion this session in response to the government's use of its supermajority. It will instead save this motion for the regular Diet session, when the DPJ can use it in the midst of budget deliberations in the hope of bringing about an early election.

The LDP does not seem to be particularly worried. Nikai Toshihiro, head of the executive council, said in a TV appearance on Monday, "This has no foundation in the constitution or in the Diet law. If this card is played, it is not significant at all."

The DPJ is right to reconsider passing a censure motion in response to the anti-terror bill. What exactly is the government doing that it deserves to be censured? Using the constitutionally mandated power of overruling the HC with a supermajority in the HR? Poorly managing the Defense Ministry (clearly an issue that transcends this government)? Defying public opinion? The reasoning behind censuring the Fukuda government has always struck me as shaky, especially since it became increasingly apparent that the government would probably ignore the resolution entirely, making the DPJ and the HR look impotent and irresponsible.

The DPJ's introduction of its own bill on Afghanistan — now under deliberation in the HC Foreign Affairs Committee — is little better, especially at this point in the battle over the anti-terror mission, but at least it makes it look like the DPJ is playing a constructive role, even if its plan is far-fetched. It still remains unclear whether the HC will actively reject the government's bill or whether the HC will remain inactive and let the sixty-day threshold pass. The other opposition parties disagree with the DPJ's plan to do nothing except pass its own bill; they want the HC to reject the government's bill outright.

It's not clear to me what the DPJ is trying to accomplish by making the government wait until the very end of the session. The DPJ has probably worked this issue as much as it could. It forced the government to focus on seeing it through to the end, thereby distracting it from addressing the lifestyle issues that should have been Mr. Fukuda's top priority from the day he took office as prime minister. The DPJ may not be as lucky in the new year. The Fukuda government needs to give the impression that it is obsessed with the pensions issue and other domestic problems, and so at this point, the less it talks about foreign policy, the better its political prospects.

(And yet, if the government is serious about pushing for a permanent JSDF dispatch law in the new year, the LDP and the DPJ might be debating about foreign policy again. But I don't think doing so will be to the government's advantage, especially since the DPJ will be reluctant to approve a law that will permit the government to extend the refueling mission without having to get permission from the Diet again next year.)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

One more month

As anticipated, the Fukuda cabinet has decided to extend the extraordinary (and extraordinarily long) Diet session thirty-one days, to 15 January, ensuring that the sixty-day rule will take effect and allow the House of Representatives to pass the new anti-terror special measures law.

As noted by MTC, the extension means that the Diet will recess for two days — when the LDP and the DPJ will hold their national conventions — before reconvening for the regular session of the Diet on 18 January.

Has the government, as suggested by Komeito, "crossed the Rubicon?"

It may look that way, especially since the decision to extend the Diet session — in effect a demonstration of the government's resolve to do whatever it takes to pass its bill — has coincided with the reemergence of the pensions scandal at the forefront of the national discussion. Mr. Fukuda has acted quickly in an attempt to soften the blow — in this week's mail magazine, he wrote, "As the representative of the Government, I offer my apologies to the people for the misconduct that has gone on for many years" — but his public support will probably drop some more, and, as suggested by Jun Okumura, Masuzoe Yoichi may be forced to offer up his head, an unfortunate consequence for the government.

Is this the beginning of a death spiral that will result in a dissolution, a general election, and possibly a change of ruling party? As reported by Mainichi, Komeito is evidently not convinced that the government will be able to avoid a snap election. And, of course, the LDP has given the DPJ yet another gift that will allow it to remain on the offensive against the government.

But I still think that should the Upper House pass a censure motion against the government in response to the re-passage of the anti-terror law in the House of Representatives, Mr. Fukuda will be able to ignore it and carry on with governing, at least for the time being.

It is interesting to see the approach that the prime minister has taken in response to the new pensions scandal. Aside from wasting no time in apologizing to the Japanese people, he has also wasted no time in making clear that the issue is the bureaucracy and its failings:
It turns out that in numerous cases these unidentified records involve rudimentary mistakes, including typos and record transfer errors, on the part of the Social Insurance Agency. The further we advance in our investigations, the more it has become apparent just how slipshod work had been at the Social Insurance Agency. Each and every one of the pension records is directly connected to the livelihood of a person. Nevertheless, the Social Insurance Agency failed to act in a manner consistent with this basic fact, which I find to be truly regrettable.
Is Mr. Fukuda able to take this approach — which Mr. Abe conspicuously did not take when first faced with this issue — because of the supposed respect he receives from the bureaucracy? (Remember back to September when this was mentioned frequently as one of the strong points of his candidacy for the LDP presidency.) Is it a matter of principle, a burst of Koizumism? Or is it simply an expression of LDP survival politics, an acknowledgment that the LDP is more than willing to jettison the bureaucracy's privileges to save itself?

Whatever the case may be, it would truly be a shame if Mr. Masuzoe — who, as I've discussed before, sincerely believes in the need to transform the bureaucracy to limit the kind of behavior noted above by the prime minister — were to be forced out of the cabinet as a result of the bureaucratic misdeeds against which he has railed.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Waning support for the anti-terror law

A survey conducted by Yomiuri over the weekend asked whether it is "appropriate" for the government to use its two-thirds majority to pass the new anti-terror special measures bill over an Upper House rejection of the bill.

Consistent with other recent polls, the results were decidedly tepid. 43% favored playing the supermajority card, 44% opposed. Meanwhile, support for the refueling mission narrowed, with 45% of respondents saying they support it, 43% saying they oppose it. In other words, support for the refueling mission has gone the wrong direction for the LDP during this marathon Diet session, which could run even longer now that the LDP and Komeito have agreed on a one-month extension to ensure the final dispatch of this albatross bill. And support is far short of Yamasaki Taku's two-thirds public support threshold beyond which the government could comfortably use its supermajority.

At the same time, the poll also recorded a slight rise in support for the LDP and a five-point drop in DPJ support, which probably doesn't mean that much coming from Yomiuri.

There's something farcical about this whole thing. Prime Minister Fukuda is now determined to see this issue through to the finish, even if the public is indifferent or opposed (and despite Mr. Fukuda's noticeable lack of enthusiasm about the bill). The DPJ has put off submitting its own proposal for the duration of the Diet session.

If by the end of the session the new bill passes, I'm certain that Washington alone will be pleased with the outcome. Enjoy it while it lasts, because I don't think there's a chance that the Fukuda government — provided there still is a Fukuda government in a year's time — would bother renewing the law when it expires after a year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Expanding options

I am increasingly led to think that there is one principle common among both states in the international system and politicians within a domestic political system (especially democracies), it is that power is rooted in flexibility. The more options an actor has, the better able he is to outmaneuver rivals and secure other interests.

A classic example of this principle in the Nixon-Kissinger opening to China, in which the US, in a stroke, exercised the option of a tacit anti-Soviet alliance in Asia to hem in the USSR while expanding US flexibility.

Prime Minister Fukuda, I think, understands this — the fewer the commitments, ideological or otherwise, the greater the flexibility and thus the greater the advantage over rivals. The more one is open to a rival's policy ideas, the easier to undermine that rival. Mr. Koizumi was a master of this, "borrowing" DPJ policies to the consternation of the DPJ. This principle was undoubtedly behind the prime minister's cabinet picks, neutralizing potential rivals by depriving them of reasons for contention (and co-opting them into his government).

Accordingly, it is no surprise that on Wednesday Mr. Fukuda met with Takagi Tsuyoshi, the head of Rengo, an ally of the DPJ, to discuss labor policy, including the minimum wage and pensions. The prime minister proclaimed his desire to cooperate with the DPJ on pensions reform and urged Mr. Takagi to push the DPJ to cooperate with the government.

At the same time, Mr. Ozawa, as a result of his restlessness, has painted his party into a corner. He has spurned cooperation with the government — by which I mean routine cooperation across party lines, not a coalition. He has shifted course in opposition to the government's anti-terror law enough to give whiplash to DPJ members and members of other opposition parties alike. As a result, he has, according to MTC, weakened his party's bonds with the minor opposition parties whose support the DPJ needs within the Diet in order to exercise a majority in the Upper House and whose cooperation is essential if the DPJ is to have any chance of winning a general election.

There is no guarantee, of course, that Mr. Fukuda and the LDP will succeed in the battle over the anti-terror law as the extraordinary session concludes. But I think that, despite the appearance of tottering on the brink of disaster, Mr. Fukuda is in a good position. He has stabilized his party's situation following the wreck of the Abe cabinet and has maneuvered the DPJ into a position of passing legislation in the House of Councillors that stands little chance of being adopted in the House of Representatives, such as the newly passed bill calling for the withdrawal of Air Self-Defense Forces elements in Iraq.

Of course, Mr. Fukuda's leadership has not been free of mistakes that have limited his room for maneuver. The biggest mistake may have been retaining the anti-terror law as agenda item number one. Dropping it may have been politically untenable for the new prime minister — I still suspect he has no great desire to commit Japanese forces to the mission, this being the unspoken message of his remarks in Washington — but the result is that Mr. Fukuda may have no choice but to use his government's supermajority in the House of Representatives to pass the bill lest he lose credibility with the US, undermine his position within the LDP, and hand a victory to the DPJ. I don't think Mr. Fukuda has a problem using the supermajority, but I think he would rather use his government's silver bullet on issues that are higher on his government's and the Japanese people's list of priorities.

Accordingly, look for Mr. Fukuda to continue to seek partners for his initiatives, ignoring party and ideological lines in the process. At some point, he will have to deliver something, but in the meantime a willingness to cooperate will not be his undoing.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The elusive rules of the game

Prime Minister Fukuda held another meeting with Ozawa Ichiro and the heads of the other opposition parties on Thursday.

Unlike the last meeting, nothing of note occurred — perhaps the other leaders were there to forestall a "corrupt bargain" between Messrs. Fukuda and Ozawa — and the LDP and the DPJ appear to be no closer to establishing the rules of the game for a divided Diet.

The editorials of the major dailies blame Mr. Ozawa for standing in the way of compromises on, "many things that should be done." (Believe it or not, that's in the headline of Asahi's editorial, not Yomiuri's.) Mainichi, while recognizing that both sides need to work together to make policy on behalf of Japan, singled out Mr. Ozawa for not taking a position amenable to cooperation on the new decision making rules, calling it "regrettable."

Yomiuri, not surprisingly, has the most strident tone in criticizing the DPJ: "Under the divided Diet, the DPJ, as the largest party in the House of Councillors, bears great responsibility in driving the political situation...However, on the DPJ's side, one cannot see them bearing this responsibility." The editorial goes on to criticize the party's irresponsibility at length for opposing the anti-terror law without passing alternate legislation, and raises the prospect of a "a debate on the uselessness of the House of Councillors."

Sankei largely echoes Yomiuri and Mainichi, and Asahi devotes most of its attention to the LDP and its agenda, but the common thread running through these editorials is dissatisfaction with gridlock.

I do think that the blame falls on the DPJ's shoulders. Had the party — and Mr. Ozawa — been more flexible on foreign policy questions, upon which the political debate is now focused, the DPJ could have pressured the LDP to approve all or most of the DPJ's domestic plans in exchange for the DPJ's assent to the MSDF refueling mission. But Mr. Ozawa has refused to give on anything, instead staking out a hardline position and hoping that the LDP will bend to his will. When push comes to shove, Mr. Fukuda and the LDP control a supermajority in the Lower House, and should public dissatisfaction (or, perhaps more accurately, media dissatisfaction masked as public dissatisfaction) grow, the DPJ will lose. The fact remains that the DPJ needs the LDP more than vice versa. I think the DPJ has completely mishandled the current Diet session. Even while compromising with the government on the anti-terror law, the DPJ could have criticized the LDP for ignoring the concerns of the public — which are overwhelmingly domestic, "lifestyle" issues — and for serving as the tool of the Bush administration. By holding its nose and supporting the MSDF mission, the DPJ could have refocused discussion on domestic policy issues, to its advantage, I think.

Now, in the wake of the meeting, it seems that talk is growing both of yet another Diet extension and a snap election. The former step will be necessary if, as I suspected (as in this post), the DPJ uses its control of the Upper House to delay action on the anti-terror law. Remember that according to the constitution, if the Upper House takes no action within sixty days — not counting days out of session — the bill is considered rejected, giving the Lower House the opportunity to pass it again. Should the bill be passed in this manner, however, a snap election could be unavoidable; Mainichi suggests that an Upper House censure motion would follow Lower House "re-passage" of the bill, leading to a general election. (I still disagree with the assumption that an Upper House censure motion against the government will necessarily lead to a snap election, but I recognize that it is a plausible outcome.)

Whatever the difficulties ahead for Mr. Fukuda as the debate over the MSDF mission reaches a climax, whatever the problems associated with corruption at the Defense Ministry, the DPJ has squandered its advantages — and, for the moment anyway, the prime minister may be enjoying a slight boost thanks to two successful foreign trips. It is not at all clear how this Diet session will wrap up, but as MTC suggests, Mr. Fukuda has not faltered in the face of adversity.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cooperation breaks out

One meeting between Mr. Fukuda and Mr. Ozawa, another scheduled for today, the MSDF's ships on their way home, and all of the sudden the political mood seems to be completely different.

With the LDP eager to avoid a general election before September 2009 and the DPJ seemingly cognizant that it's not enough just to pass laws in the Upper House, both parties, according to Asahi, "can be seen to be working to compromise, and the confrontational mood is beginning to fade."

One area being considered for a compromise is the drafting of a permanent law on JSDF dispatch, which would necessitate three-way discussions among the LDP, DPJ, and Komeito inside and outside the Diet on the principles that should guide JSDF missions abroad. Undoubtedly this debate would distance the DPJ from other opposition parties, but that may be an unavoidable consequence of the DPJ's having to work more with the LDP, a problem that does not concern the others. That said, this concept remains a possibility, and nothing more.

A more immediate area for cooperation is a revision of the political funds control law. While the LDP, DPJ, and Komeito agreed in a private meeting to revise the law to require reporting of all expenses over one yen, the challenge, Mainichi suggests, is moving the discussion to a meeting of the Diet Strategy committee chairmen that includes the other opposition parties, while hammering out remaining differences between the LDP and DPJ on the specifics of the revised law.

There is still the looming problem of a new law authorizing the MSDF's refueling activities, on the agenda for the Friday meeting, but at least they're talking about practical differences on matters of legislation, and not grandstanding or name-calling. Now that the ships are coming home, I am curious to see whether the LDP will be able to convince the Japanese people to support sending them back in a few weeks. The permanent end of the refueling mission might be a price worth paying for constructive debate on the other, more pressing issues on the policy agenda, particularly if the parties can revisit proposals for Japanese (probably civilian) contributions to the reconstruction of Afghanistan on the ground. Jun Okumura has a solid proposal for how something of this nature could happen.

At least the DPJ has finally learned that with the dissipation of its momentum from the Upper House election win, it needs to have something to offer the public, which means shaking hands with Mr. Fukuda every once in a while. Is Mr. Ozawa prudent enough to manage the task?

Monday, October 1, 2007

The LDP readies its bill

On the heels of Mr. Fukuda's maiden speech to the Diet, the government has outlined a new bill on the MSDF mission in the Indian Ocean and will begin working with relevant cabinet ministers and within the governing coalition to hammer out a final draft, before appealing to the DPJ to cooperate.

Perhaps, then, Jun Okumura is right: a perfunctory effort to get the DPJ to sign on, then a quick push through the House of Representatives by mid-October (Jun said October 16th), meaning that the sixty-day waiting period would end sometime in December. It seems that the government will be unable to avoid extending the Diet session into December.

The terms of the government's draft, accordingly to Asahi, are much more limited than the special measures law, stripping the mission down to its refueling core (instead of also being permitted to do searches and disaster relief). Acknowledging opposition criticism, the government will provide information on the mission at fixed intervals — and it will acknowledge the farcical UN resolution as a basis for action. The LDP wants the bill to last two years, but apparently Komeito would prefer only one.

But any differences within the coalition will presumably be ironed out. It seems that Mr. Fukuda may be able to achieve what Mr. Abe couldn't, with minimal turbulence. The DPJ will ask its questions and demand documents — it has already begun its parliamentary inquest — but it won't be able to do much more than delay the inevitable. Mr. Ozawa may still be able to spin it as a victory of some kind, saying that he stood up to both the government and the US and refused to cave, but it seems that it won't serve as the rallying cry that perhaps the DPJ leadership intended when it took this stance after the election.

In other words, in with a bang, out with a whimper.

A very typical scandal

In case anyone thinks that the DPJ will buy the dodge attempted by CCS Machimura on The Sunday Project — discussed by Jun Okumura in this postthis post by Nagashima Akihisa should disabuse you of that notion.

Mr. Machimura attempted to shift the blame to the US for reports that US warships used Japanese-provided fuel for activities related to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

As seems typical for Mr. Nagashima's blog posts, he is "dumbfounded" by Mr. Machimura's remarks, suggesting that in all likelihood the government knew exactly what was going on in the Indian Ocean.

This "scandal" has the makings of other Japanese scandals, with unanswered question following unanswered question (i.e., the question of whether Japan provided 200,000 or 800,000 tons of fuel), which of course justifies the position taken by Mr. Nagashima and other DPJ hawks that the problem isn't the mission, but the government's failure to provide adequate information about the MSDF's activities. This whole "Iraq or Afghanistan" question has probably destroyed whatever opportunity remained of the government's using the anti-terror bill to divide the DPJ, if such an opportunity even remained — apparently the government doesn't even have the information that the DPJ wants (and if it's playing dumb, well, that's even more inexcusable).

In the meantime, the DPJ continues to support a role on the ground in Afghanistan, doing "DDR": disarmament, demobilization, and reconstruction. Shadow Defense Minister Asao reiterated the DPJ's support for a government plan to put personnel — presumably civilians — on the ground in Afghanistan in support of DDR activities.

I have to disagree with Jun Okumura on point related to this, however. I see no way for this bill to pass this year. Depending on how quickly the Lower House acts on a new bill, we're still looking at a two-month waiting period before the Lower House can vote for the bill again, even longer if the Diet session isn't extended to last into December or the new year. I find it hard to believe that the DPJ won't use the full sixty days to embarrass the government, questioning witness after witness after witness about the mission.

The Fukuda cabinet might be able to raise the costs to the DPJ of opting for this strategy, but I think that will depend on the height of the ceiling for public support for this mission. The recent polls on this matter show that the support the government enjoys is soft — of the "can't be helped" variety rather than the "absolutely must do this" variety.

The end of Abe politics (for now)

Prime Minister Fukuda delivered his maiden speech to the Diet this afternoon, reopening legislative business after an unscheduled three-week abeyance.

If Mr. Fukuda was trying to differentiate himself from his successor, he succeeded admirably. Mr. Abe's way of politics was not just ideological, but inflexibly ideological. For Mr. Abe, it was always "my way or the highway" — but, perhaps to his surprise, it was the Japanese people who told him to beat it. Mr. Fukuda will, as expected, not be nearly as intransigent. (Sankei says exactly this, noting that Mr. Fukuda's "color" will be different from both Mr. Koizumi's "theatrical politics" and Mr. Abe's conservatism.)

The speech — available here — redounds with what will be the cardinal themes of the Fukuda cabinet: trust, sincerity, cooperation, reform.

The longest sections, perhaps not surprisingly, concern social inequalities and foreign policy.

On the inequality between urban and rural Japan, Mr. Fukuda acknowledges the existence of a "vicious cycle" whereby rural regions have stagnated economically, making them less attractive to the young, which has perpetuated economic stagnation and "grayed" whole regions of the country. He committed his government to accelerate studies of how to regenerate the regions, including transferring more tax authority and considering the agglomeration of prefectures into seven or nine super-prefectures (from forty-seven). And he acknowledged the importance of protecting small farmers and small- and medium-sized businesses — traditional pillars of LDP support — but was short on the how. Something tells me that the denizens of the shuttered shopping streets visited by Mr. Fukuda during the LDP presidential campaign are hungering for something more than words, although Mr. Fukuda's acknowledgment of the problem is a step above Mr. Abe. At the same time, however, he reaffirmed once again his commitment to reform — so it remains to be seen how he proposes to go about solving the "light and shadow" problem with reform, discussed at length in this article (two parts) in Genron NPO by Kato Koichi.

On foreign policy, he called attention to Japan's role in supporting the peace of the world, and highlighted the MSDF mission in the Indian Ocean and the North Korea problems as his government's highest priority foreign policy problems. On the former, he called attention to requests from the UN and countries participating in the reconstruction of Afghanistan that Japan extend its mission — and said, "I will expend all my energy explaining to the people and the Diet the importance of continuing the mission without a break, in order to receive their understanding." On the latter, he waffled, talking about the importance of the six-party talks to the peace of the region, but also speaking of the importance of ensuring that all the abductees are returned home. In other words, he ducked the looming question of whether Japan will actually begin playing a constructive role in the talks as they move ahead.

The rest of the foreign policy section was spent reassuring others. To the US, he pledged to strengthen bilateral trust in the relationship. To the people of Okinawa, he pledged to listen to their opinions on the realignment of US forces. To China, he pledged to continue the strategic relationship grounded in shared interests, and to South Korea, he pledged to forge a more trusting relationship in the near future. To ASEAN, he pledged greater economic cooperation, and to the WTO, he pledged to work towards a compromise that concludes the Doha Round. And he renewed the Japanese government's campaign for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

While the speech is about as vague as Mr. Abe's maiden speech to the Diet around this time last year, there is no question that Mr. Fukuda's priorities are wholly different from Mr. Abe's. Mr. Abe's vision of a "beautiful Japan" was delusional, and created a false impression internationally of a vigorous, energetic Japan rising. Mr. Fukuda acknowledges the reality of contemporary Japan as a deeply insecure place, whose people are worried about the future of their society and their livelihoods as they age. He doesn't seem to have many concrete answers for how to deal with those insecurities, but acknowledging that said insecurities exist is an important first step. He also recognizes that Japanese society has to change, and that change doesn't mean going backward, a recognition sure to make conservatives in the LDP apoplectic. He said, for example, "I am wrestling with the implementation of a 'men and women joint-participation society' in which all individuals, both men and women, can utilize their abilities and personalities and share joys and responsibilities. In this society [women] will be able to take sufficient maternity leave and then return to work, so to maintain an environment in which children can be born and raised safely." Not exactly a radical vision compared to innovations that have been implemented in workplaces in other developed countries, but it's radical enough for an LDP prime minister.

This is a good reminder of what Mr. Fukuda faces as he moves forward. He not only has to try to cooperate with a DPJ that has given few signs of wanting to cooperate, but he will likely have to fend off attacks from ideologues in his own party, who — as MTC reminds us — are still in fighting spirit, perhaps even more than ever after their man was hounded from the Kantei. (Undoubtedly, they will be raging about the absence of a mention of constitution revision in Mr. Fukuda's address; indeed, after a year of Mr. Abe, it's strange to see a policy address that, however vague, actually discusses matters of national concern.) In case anyone needs a reminder that the LDP's conservatives are still ready for action, bear in mind that Mr. Aso has already begun touring the country to build up grassroots support for his next run for the LDP presidency.

Whether or not Mr. Fukuda lasts long enough to make any progress on solving Japan's problems, it is refreshing to have a prime minister who is both aware of what the country's problems really are and willing to admit that he doesn't have all the answers.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

From Team Abe to Team LDP

The first day of the Fukuda cabinet has passed, and the new prime minister has already put himself in about as advantageous a position as possible in light of the difficult circumstances in which he has taken office.

Criticism from the opposition and the media about the return of the factions notwithstanding, Mr. Fukuda has ensured that the party's respected elders are at his side, responsible for the government — they will not be sniping at him from the sidelines. While the question of the LDP's unruly conservative ideologues remains, in the meantime Mr. Fukuda has ensured that cabinet and party leadership will serve him. The Fukuda cabinet will not be characterized by a power vacuum at the top, unlike in the Abe cabinet. Significantly, the Policy Affairs Research Council (PARC), which has historically served as the primary organ by which backbenchers and zoku giin could exert bottom-up influence on policy making, is in the hands of Mr. Tanigaki, who is undoubtedly just grateful to be back in power after a year in the wilderness and thus will (gladly?) be taking marching orders from the prime minister.

So I have to disagree with Garrett DeOrio on this: the inclusion of faction chiefs is not automatically a bad thing. Indeed, for all the talk about the return of the factions, this argument seems odd in light of Mr. Fukuda's being the fourth consecutive prime minister from the Machimura faction. The inclusion of faction leaders in the cabinet might be more a sign of just how cheaply their support can be bought, rather than a sign of the undue influence the factions are prepared to wield over policy. (And it is necessary to recall that the factions have not historically been cohesive ideological units, being more about personal and monetary ties than about policy agendas — the zoku have been as or more important for policy making purposes.)

Meanwhile, he has made a wise choice in assembling his foreign policy team, shifting Mr. Komura from defense to foreign affairs and giving the defense portfolio to Ishiba Shigeru, defense policy wonk and JDA chief under Mr. Koizumi. With Mr. Ishiba's inclusion in the cabinet, the Fukuda cabinet now includes perhaps the two most prominent critics of Mr. Abe's decision to remain in office after the July landslide, the other being Mr. Masuzoe. If Mr. Fukuda is serious about sending a message that he recognizes the LDP's problems and seeks to learn from Mr. Abe's mistakes, including internal "dissidents" is a good way to start. Mr. Ishiba's appointment will undoubtedly also placate Washington, as Mr. Ishiba is a prominent but sensible advocate of closer US-Japan defense cooperation who pushed hard for a Japanese contribution to Iraqi reconstruction. (The US will also no doubt be pleased by Mr. Fukuda's intention to visit Washington in November, hopefully with a new anti-terror law in hand — or at least a new law in the pipeline.) When it comes to expertise on defense matters, Mr. Ishiba can go toe-to-toe with any of the DPJ's defense wonks, important considering that the point of contention this term is the anti-terror special measures law, a new version of which Mr. Fukuda intends to submit this Diet session. (And his being telegenic won't hurt the government's attempt to spin reports that the MSDF, in fact, assisted Operation Iraqi Freedom illegally.)

Beyond consolidating his support within the LDP, Mr. Fukuda has acted quickly to calm the fears of Komeito, the LDP's nervous coalition partner. Komeito's leadership is undoubtedly thrilled to see Mr. Abe replaced with Mr. Fukuda, seeing as how the former exposed the extent to which Komeito had sold out its principles for the sake of holding power with the LDP. Mr. Fukuda has agreed to support two legislative proposals favored by Komeito, a freeze on plans to raise the burden of elderly health care born by patients and a political funds law revision that makes it a requirement to attach all receipts for expenses exceeding one yen to funds reports (meaning that support for this version of the political funds control revision effectively has uniform support among the government coalition and the DPJ, although Mr. Ozawa took care to emphasize that the LDP has come along reluctantly). Whatever threat Komeito posed to the durability of the coalition under Mr. Abe has been more or less neutralized.

That leaves the DPJ. Mr. Ozawa has welcomed Mr. Fukuda to power by insisting once again that the House of Representatives should be dissolved and a general election held. Asked to comment on Mr. Fukuda, Mr. Ozawa said, "I have no comment on him as an individual. For the LDP-Komeito government, it will be the same whoever takes the place of prime minister. The continuation of LDP-Komeito government has meant the distortion of Japanese society, giving birth to injustice, inequality, and disparities in all areas." Should Mr. Fukuda's cabinet score highly in the polls that will be published any day now, however, the pressure on the DPJ to change its tune could become unbearable. The DPJ cannot rely on Mr. Fukuda to give them gifts in the manner that Mr. Abe's cabinet did. They will have to work on outfoxing their new opponent, because I don't think the rejectionist line will be sufficient in the face of a new prime minister who has acted quickly to neutralize (some but not all) potential enemies within the coalition and is now prepared to deal with the DPJ.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Will Fukuda have a honeymoon?

In his initial remarks yesterday, Mr. Fukuda indicated that he recognizes what Mr. Koizumi recognized, namely that the LDP is responsible for the state of the economy and politics.

Describing the election results, he insisted, "This is not old-style solidarity among factions." His task: "Regaining the people's trust." He spoke at length on the problem of trust in politics, sounding like the most forthright of "outsider" American presidential candidates.

"In particular, concerning the pension problem, the truly big problem is that the people have been given the impression that they cannot trust politics and government," he said. "I think this is an exceedingly big problem. Regarding this problem, each ministry is responsible, but I think that it is also the major responsibility of politicians, who have the position of directing this. In particular, I think the responsibility of the LDP, which has sustained governments for a long time, is great. I fully realize this responsibility, and it is essential to be committed to the idea that the LDP must be reborn."

I have to imagine that we would not be hearing the word "caretaker" if these words came from a new prime minister twenty years younger and considerably more telegenic than Mr. Fukuda. As it is, it's an open question whether Mr. Fukuda will be able to repeat Mr. Koizumi's feat of leading the LDP to victory by campaigning against the LDP. [Ed. — Fool me once...] But I think he means it when he dismisses the idea of his being a cat's paw of the factions. He has his own ideas about the LDP and its future — and they might be disappointing to his backers, Mr. Mori included. The question is whether he will be able to implement them.

Meanwhile, the tone he took on the looming problem of the anti-terror special measures law was distinctly different than that of his predecessors. Namely, he conceived the law in largely negative terms, as a way to avoid the opprobrium of other countries (which have been so kind as to thank Japan for its contribution). Not surprisingly, for this way of thinking Mr. Fukuda has earned the appellation of "realist" from Michael Green. The Fukuda cabinet will likely mean a turn away from the exuberant embrace of the US that characterized Japanese foreign policy under Messrs. Koizumi and Abe. As Mainichi suggests, a flexible, prudent approach will undoubtedly characterize Mr. Fukuda's foreign policy in all areas. The perfervid ideological thinking that resulted in the Abe cabinet's scheme for an "arc of freedom and prosperity" is set to retreat to the back benches and study groups of the LDP, for the time being anyway.

It's actually an amazing trick Mr. Fukuda has pulled: he has managed to convince everyone (or the media, which has subsequently convinced everyone) that he is a mellow conciliator, when in fact his positions will make plenty of people unhappy. For all the talk of LDP unity, how long before young firebrands and old faction bosses get fed up with his way of governance and make their gripes known, loudly and persistently?

One thing is certain. Mr. Fukuda will not enjoy a honeymoon in his relations with the DPJ, no matter how eagerly he tries to reach out and cooperate. The DPJ has signaled that it will not relent in its confrontational stance and will continue to push for an early general election. Whether this strategy will succeed is entirely different question.

Can the anti-terror law be rescued this session?

The most significant challenge facing Mr. Fukuda as he enters office may be responding to allegations that the MSDF refueling mission in the Indian Ocean was in fact refueling US ships participating in Operation Iraqi Freedom, which would, of course, contravene the terms of the MSDF mission.

In addition to the allegations noted by Jun Okumura, the former commanding officer of the USS Enterprise told Asahi that Japanese vessels provided fuel for operations related to OIF — with the Ministry of Defense's admitting that this was possible.

All of this gives credence to the DPJ's claims that the government has been less than forthcoming with information about the MSDF mission, thereby justifying the DPJ's opposition to the extension of the law.

Argues Nagashima Akihisa, DPJ member of the House of Representatives: "And still the government argues this [the MSDF only support OEF] vehemently! They not know when to give up, and they're excessively dishonest and insincere." Mr. Nagashima suggests an important point — namely that American officers weren't particularly concerned about the finer points of the law enabling Japan's contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom when they went about their missions, which straddled OEF and OIF. He is unclear, however, about the impact these revelations will have on public support for renewal, which has been trending in the government's favor of late.

But Mr. Fukuda has expressed his determination to introduce a new bill this session that authorizes support for OEF, this despite the recommendation of Yamasaki Taku, his ally, that a new bill should wait until next year's regular Diet session. He insists that it is necessary to pass the bill this session, lest other countries begin to wonder "what is Japan really doing." It's altogether unclear to me how Mr. Fukuda can do this. As Amaki Naoto suggests, these latest revelations about the deception surrounding the MSDF mission should and will likely stiffen Mr. Ozawa's and the DPJ's resolve on this issue, which means that presumably any anti-terror bill sent by the Lower House to the Upper will languish there until the end of the session. Regardless of how quickly the government could get a new law through the Lower House, that would mean that the government would have to wait until several weeks into the new Diet session before the bill automatically became law by virtue of the Upper House's not acting on it.

The wild card might be public opinion. If Mr. Fukuda is given a honeymoon, he may be able to use public support as a bludgeon to pressure the DPJ to compromise on the Indian Ocean mission, regardless of the allegations of illegal activities by the MSDF. The ASDF's Iraq mission is probably beyond salvaging in light of these revelations, if it wasn't doomed already; it's too good a bargaining chip for the government not to use to get a compromise on a bill that has become the single biggest test facing Mr. Fukuda.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The DPJ pushes on all fronts

In the midst of chaos in the LDP, the DPJ has been working to press its advantage on all fronts in anticipation of an early election for the House of Representatives. At the grass roots, the party leadership has directed young members to return to their districts to campaign — and bear the message of the need for a quick general election, regardless of who the next prime minister is. Mr. Ozawa has in fact signaled that in mid-October he is set to undertake another trip around the country, ostensibly to thank voters in rural prefectures for their support in the Upper House election but also to bolster the DPJ's support in advance of another election upon which Mr. Ozawa is "staking his political life."

Meanwhile, on the legislative front, the DPJ made clear in Upper House budget hearings this week that it intends to trim the pork from the budget, while bureaucrats signaled that they would perform the necessary nemawashi with the DPJ, working with DPJ legislators to formulate the budget and related policies. (It's not like the ministries have much of a choice.)

Finally, on the foreign policy front, the DPJ has dismissed the UNSC resolution that included a line thanking Japan for its support in the Indian Ocean, with Mr. Hatoyama once again condemning the government's lobbying for the expression of thanks as "deplorable" and "shameful."

At the same time, Sankei's Komori Yoshihisa has responded to the DPJ's "UN-centered foreign policy" with a broadside that asks whether the "UN can defend Japan" or "prevent war." Now, I don't disagree. In fact, I've criticized the DPJ for the same — a UN-centered security policy is not a security policy, it is the absence of a security policy. But should the alternative be remaining dependent on the US? Komori's own basis for criticizing the UN is the lack of support Japan has received from the UN on the abductions issue. Fine, but the US hasn't exactly been sticking its neck out on the issue either. In other words, Japan's foreign policy should not and dare I say will not be all or nothing at all. It should use the UN when it suits its purposes, it should maintain a healthy relationship with the US (in which Japan is free to disagree with the US without fearing for its security), and it should develop a panoply of relationships within the region to maximize its flexibility as an actor in the Asia-Pacific. It is useless to spend one's energy tearing down the UN — or, for that matter, the US-Japan alliance. As an increasingly middling power in a region of giants, Japan will be best served by expanding its options, which will mean embracing any and every tool and mechanism that enables Japan to wield influence in the region and globally. (And given that the region will not be neatly divided along clear battle lines, this approach is well suited to Asia in the twenty-first century.)

I think the DPJ is groping in the direction of a Japanese foreign policy that would follow these lines; it just needs to do a better job articulating it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Thanks Japan!

The UN Security Council has passed its latest resolution authorizing the activities of the ISAF in Afghanistan, and, as I discussed yesterday, took care to thank Japan for its contribution to Operating Enduring Freedom.

There's very little of note regarding this resolution, except that for the first time it did not pass unanimously — Russia decided to abstain, arguing that OEF is beyond what the UN is capable of supporting.

Will this latest resolution make any difference in the debate in Japan? If the previous resolutions passed by the Security Council authorizing coalition activities in Afghanistan were not enough for Mr. Ozawa, I doubt that this latest measure, with its cloying attempt to coax Japan's continuing involvement, will make any difference.

But there you have it: the UN officially appreciates Japan's Indian Ocean gas station. (And if you think this is just me being unfairly dismissive, a certain prominent Tokyo University academic and public intellectual described it in just those terms when we spoke last year.)

Anti-terror bill fight moves to the UN?

Calling the DPJ's bluff, the government is apparently changing its approach on the extension of the MSDF mission by seeking the passage of an UNSC resolution that will thank Japan for its contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom.

Somehow I don't think that's the kind of resolution Mr. Ozawa has in mind when he argues that Japan's contributions abroad must follow a UNSC resolution. Mr. Hatoyama, DPJ secretary-general, dismissed the idea of a resolution thanking Japan resulting from the Japanese government's lobbying as a "farce," and Asao Keiichiro, the DPJ shadow defense minister, said, "Just expressing gratitude is meaningless." [Full disclosure: I was an employee of Mr. Asao's until recently.]

This latest ploy to get the mission extended strikes me as absurd. Short of inventing a time machine and going back to 2001 to convince President Bush to get a UN resolution explicitly authorizing the US campaign in Afghanistan beforehand, I doubt there's a thing the UN Security Council can do at this point to the save the government the embarrassment of having to bring its ships home November 2nd.

Beyond the specific issue of the anti-terror law, however, Mr. Ozawa should clarify precisely what kind of UN sanction he thinks is necessary in order for Japan to be able to send its armed forces abroad — does he really envision more clear-cut scenarios like the first Gulf crisis? If so, his foreign policy stance is nothing but the abdication of a foreign policy, raising the bar for Japanese contributions to international missions to prohibitive heights.

In the meantime, the government should probably have a better plan than begging the UN for a fig-leaf "gratitude" resolution. Going to the UN first might have made a difference in the debate over the bill, but now after weeks of sniping across the Pacific, the government will not be saved by a scrap of paper bearing the UN seal.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

LDP-lite?

Apparently Fukuda isn't just sounding like the DPJ — he's actually using slogans that DPJ leaders used sometime ago.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Ozawa Ichiro joked about Mr. Fukuda's "self-reliance and harmony" slogan, saying that he had been using it from years before, back in 1993 when he left the LDP to create the Shinseito. Hatoyama Yukio also said that his former Democratic Party had used a similar formulation as one of its principles.

Joking aside, I think this just goes to show the threat posed to the DPJ by Mr. Fukuda's increasingly likely premiership. While the LDP and the DPJ are still expected to clash on foreign policy, especially on the extension of the MSDF mission in the Indian Ocean — Mr. Fukuda emphasized yesterday that "discussion is not the same as cooperation" — in general the softer domestic approach advocated by the front runner will make it that much harder for the DPJ to characterize itself as anything other than a "calorie off" LDP.

Mr. Ozawa will no doubt continue to push for a general election, but as the new cabinet forms and sets to work, his calls will likely become less and less effective as the momentum that the DPJ has enjoyed dissipates, at least for the time being. Sooner or later the DPJ will have to put its Upper House majority for something other than saying no.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Troubles abroad

In the midst of considering the problems that either Mr. Fukuda or Mr. Aso will inherit, it is important not to forget the foreign policy problems that Japan faces, not least the six-party talks and the North Korea challenge.

As a consequence of Mr. Abe's abductions-centered North Korea policy, Japan is isolated in the six-party talks, insistent on the need for progress on the abductions issue before Japan will consider providing economic support for North Korea and normalizing bilateral relations. Relations are frayed with the US, with Washington impatient concerning cooperation on the war on terror and the lack of progress on revising Japan's restrictions on collective-self-defense — and frustrated by the political turmoil in Tokyo. Relations with China are stable, but relations with South Korea remain frigid. Ambitious diplomatic initiatives for the region have amounted to little more than rhetoric.

Both Mr. Aso and Mr. Fukuda have insisted on their ability to reinvigorate Japanese foreign relations, with the biggest difference being on North Korea policy. Mr. Fukuda signaled today that he desires normalization with North Korea and would entertain it following progress on the nuclear and missile problems; Mr. Aso, however, would continue the Abe line, emphasizing pressure, pressure, and more pressure until North Korea caves. It's not exactly clear what effect pressure will have on Pyongyang when the other participating countries are preparing to move ahead in cooperation with North Korea. As the US has learned with Cuba, unilateral sanctions are more or less useless in forcing a country to change its ways. And so if Mr. Fukuda means what he says, Japan might actually be ready to rejoin the six-party talks and work with the region's other powers in achieving a workable modus vivendi for the Korean peninsula.

Meanwhile, on the Japanese refueling operation in the Indian Ocean, Mr. Fukuda has the upper hand on Mr. Aso, simply by virtue of his reputation as a compromiser. Any solution on this issue will have to involve the DPJ — and it makes good political sense too. The more conciliatory the government, the more pressure on the DPJ to cooperate (and the better to exacerbate tension within the DPJ). According, one should expect more cooperative motions from the DPJ leadership — like Mr. Hatoyama's today suggesting that the DPJ could support actions for the peace of Afghanistan, but not military actions — as Mr. Fukuda's premiership becomes more closer to being reality. The next prime minister will also enjoy more support from the Japanese people, as a Jiji poll has found a majority of respondents in support of extending the mission. A majority of that majority reluctantly supports the measure out of fear that US-Japan relations will worsen, which may be well suited for a more moderate Fukuda cabinet. (Fear for worsening relations is no way to conduct an alliance, but that's a whole other discussion entirely.)

The considerable overlap between Mr. Fukuda's and the DPJ's foreign policy positions — on Asia policy especially — may be both good for Japan and bad for the DPJ. Fukuda's Japan may play a more constructive role internationally, which the DPJ presumably supports, but Mr. Fukuda will make it that much more difficult for the DPJ to distinguish itself from the LDP in an election campaign.