Wednesday, July 11, 2012

One Point Of Light To Look For In The Murk

Today is likely to be rough day in Japanese politics.

Ozawa Ichiro is going to unveil his new political party, provisionally named "The People's Livelihood Comes First" Party (Michael Penn has provided a very convenient shorthand: "The Livelihood Party"). At this writing, the Livelihood Party will burst onto the scene with 49 Diet members: 37 from the House of Representatives and 12 from the House of Councillors (J).

All in all, 51 members of the DPJ have left the fold since July 2. The most recent defector is Yonenaga Harunobu, a Hatoyama Group member, who turned in his resignation papers on July 6. As Yonenaga is a House of Councillors member, his leaving the party over the consumption tax bill prior to the vote on that bill represents an embarrassing loss of face for the Democratic Party of Japan. However, Yonenaga, a district seat holder from Yamanashi, has chosen to serve, at least for now, as an independent, lessening the impact of his departure.

It will surprise no one if Yonenaga shows up at the meeting this evening introducing the establishment of the Livelihood Party. Almost certain to be in attendance will be fellow DPJ defector turned independent, Zukeran Chobin, as he made clear on his blog yesterday he will be caucusing with the Livelihood Party. (J)

It will also surprise no one if the entire membership of the Kizuna shows up at the meeting, with Kizuna leader Uchiyama Akira announcing his party's merger with the Livelihood Party. With Ozawa now out of the DPJ, Kizuna's raison d'être has evaporated.

With Kizuna's nine members and the cooperation of Zukeran and the three former DPJ members in Shinto Daichi, Ozawa will have 50 sure votes in the House of Representatives, one short of the 51 he needs to table a no-confidence motion against the Noda Cabinet.

Which makes moves of one sure guest at the unveiling unfortunately significant.

Former DPJ party leader Hatoyama Yukio has, through his behavior in the last week, transformed himself from DPJ-co-founder-yet-Ozawa-puppet into a DINO - a Democrat In Name Only. On June 26 he voted against the consumption tax bill, for which he was smacked on July 3 with a six-month suspension of party privileges. He complained about this punishment, with some party members suggesting that slapping a 6 month penalty on Hatoyama while hitting other opponents to the bill with two months suspensions was disproportionate. In a gesture that Hatoyama should have accepted graciously, the party central secretariat reduced his suspension to only three months on July 9.

Ever able to miss seize an opportunity to miss an opportunity*, Hatoyama, already in the hottest of water for boasting that he and his followers held the casting votes should there be a move to depose the Noda Cabinet through a no confidence motion (J), piled it on yesterday, saying not that he did not see why he deserved to be disciplined but -- and I am not making this up:
"There is an extremely insulting phrase making its way around. The phrase is 'the LDP's Noda Faction'."
Typically gutless in its presentation -- "It's not what I am saying, mind you. It's what I have heard, that's all" -- Hatoyama's insult is grounds for the imposition of a full year's suspension.

Except, of course, doing anything to Hatoyama right now will provide a pretext for him and perhaps a smattering of his followers to leave the DPJ, magnifying the impact of today's unveiling of the Ozawa party.

As it is, the leadership will likely sit tight-lipped, seeing whether or not Hatoyama has the wherewithal to actually quit the DPJ. He will be a prominent guest at the unveiling today -- but unless he actually shows up at Secretary-General Koshi'ishi Azuma's office with resignation papers in hand, he is just tossing out his usual b------t, using Harry Frankfurt's definition for the kinds of noises Hatoyama makes.

The one person whose attendance will really matter, if it happens, will be Fukuda Eriko. I have highlighted her before. However, rather than just being an Ozawa Girl, she has been the brains and conscience of the anti-consumption tax movement. She considered not voting on the bill, for she saw the fight over the consumption tax shifting from being a struggle over policy (seiji) to struggle over power (seikyoku), with the only beneficiary being the opposition Liberal Democratic Party. In a last minute change of heart she voted against the bill, thinking "I may not be reelected. But unless I commit myself now to the cause, I will regret it the rest of my life." (J)

Fukuda received the same two month suspension as the other DPJ members other than Hatoyama who voted against the consumption tax bill. She had, however, voted with the government on the establishment of a national commission to debate the minimum pension and other social welfare programs, while voting down the unneeded bill on the merger of the nation's kindergartens and day care centers - making her one of only two DPJ members to vote this conscientious way.

Though only 31 years old, an Ozawa pick and a first-termer, Fukuda is one rebel to whom the DPJ and Prime Minister Noda must pay attention and, if they are smart, total respect.

If Fukuda shows up at tonight's unveiling, the indication will be that the DPJ is in serious, serious trouble.

* A borrowing of Abba Eban's famous exasperated characterization of his Arab counterparts.

1 comment:

Sigma1 said...

I agree that it would be a bad sign, and I would be surprised if she did. Fukuda-sensei is as serious and committed as they come - her interest in policy rather than politics compared to most in the DPJ is obvious. My feeling is that she would see joining Ozawa as a loss of influence that would not help with her policy commitments.