Today will be a very interesting day.
Today the first termers, the old lefties and the rural representatives in the Democratic Party of Japan will be asking Prime Minister if the news reports of this morning, with their claims that the PM has decided to dissolve the Diet this month and lead the DPJ into a campaign waving the banners of participation in the Trans Pacific Partnership and a cut in the number of proportional seats in the House of Representatives -- are just something the media dreamed up, led astray by anonymous sources, or an accurate description of reality. (Link - J)
They are likely as not to be listening to his response with their heads tilted to one side, trying to see if the picture looks any better when seen askew.
As a rule of thumb, leaders of political parties care about the parties that selected them as leader. Koizumi Jun'ichiro, in his campaign for the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party and his snap election call in 2005 did declare an intent to destroy his party from within. However, Koizumi's intra-party warfare was more on the LDP's decayed traditions than on the party per se. His intent was not to kill the LDP but drag it, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century.
The fate of the LDP after Koizumi's retirement, with Abe Shinzo signaling a return to business as usual through his welcoming back into the party the Koizumi postal reform rebels, presaged an era of rapid decline in the party's popularity, culminating in its ouster from power in August 2009.
If this morning's news reports are correct, then Prime Minister and Democratic Party of Japan leader Noda Yoshihiko has seized upon Koizumi fetishism (Link) of the highest order. If the prime minister intends to drive the non-reformist elements out of the DPJ in order to save the DPJ, he is as nuts as his Minister of National Strategy and fellow Matsushita Institute of Management and Government alumnus Maehara Seiji. Maehara has a book coming out on Friday entitled "I Want To Bring To Realization A Conservative Realignment" (Hoshu no saihen o jitsugen shitai - Link - J). He has also been making statements deviating from the policies of the DPJ mainline leadership, including a call for an early election. (Link)
It has been easy to dismiss Maehara as a deviant. Despite or perhaps because of his conservative bona fides, he has again and again shown a remarkable lack of common sense (Clicking on the tag below or putting "Maehara" in the search window directs one to some of Maehara's most embarrassing moments). However, if today's headlines hold up, Maehara may be less the village idiot and more the town crier.
If the conservatives in the party are calling an election to force realignment -- i.e., the destruction of both the DPJ and the LDP -- they better have their ducks lined up. Maehara has been a fixture in non-partisan study groups bringing together free market liberals and defense wonks, so he at least has strong ties to like-minded legislators inside the LDP and elsewhere (primarily in the Your Party and People's Life First). If they blow up the DPJ in order to run in the next election as a rump centrist party ready to join a conservative coalition, the rump may be just the part of the body where they will find themselves post-election.
Everything I have written about the DPJ, including the crazy stuff (Link) has been based upon the premise that the party leadership is unified in wishing the party to survive -- which, I hope the reader agrees, is not an unreasonable assumption. However, if the DPJ conservatives dream, as Maehara is dreaming, of a realignment along ideological lines, then the DPJ is already gone.
Noda, Maehara, Diet Affairs Chairman Yamanoi Kazunori, Minister of Foreign Affairs Gemba Koichiro and Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Tarutoko Shinji are all Matsushita grads (click here for the full J-list of all 37 members of Diet who are alumni of the Institute). If they have talked themselves into rebelling against themselves, then I hope the Matsushita Institute had a little Hogwarts in it -- for it will take magic to survive the aftermath. The voters of Chiba District #4, the House of Representatives district with the highest population and thus the least enfranchised electorate, may not take kindly to their representative, a certain Mr. Noda Yoshihiko, selling them out in order to run on a neo-liberal platform and a prayer that his neo-liberal counterparts in the LDP jump ship to join him in a new conservative alliance.
One can be too smart by half.
DPJ Secretary-General Koshi'ishi Azuma is likely in a state of shock. If all that is purported to be true is true, then he fought for Noda's reelection as party leader only to be rewarded with a knee-capping.