Will the LDP double down in the next election?
Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, June 26, 2007
NOW THIS GUY HAS SHARP EYES: Japanese blogger Hiroshi, writing for the Japan Handlers blog (in Japanese), spotted two snippets in the Japanese press that present the possibility of the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party dissolving the Lower House of the Diet and holding a double election on the same day as that for the upcoming regularly scheduled Upper House poll.
Hiroshi found the first snippet in a Yomiuri Shimbun report yesterday of an address given by Yoshimi Watanabe, the Minister of State for Regulatory Reform, Administrative Reform, Regional Revitalization and (pant, pant) Regional Government. Speaking in Kusatsu, Shiga Prefecture, Watanabe claimed that pending legislation to reform Japan’s public employment system was “the most important” of those bills presented by the Abe administration, and that a double election was possible if the Diet failed to pass it during the current session.
The article covering the speech is only a paragraph long. Perhaps it’s being overlooked because of another speech Watanabe delivered the day before in Yamaguchi City, in which the minister said that Prime Minister Abe would not abandon his post even in the event of a crushing LDP defeat in the Upper House election about a month from now. (That’s not to say the other party members wouldn’t make him walk the plank, but we’re way ahead of ourselves on that.)
It’s also worth noting that Watanabe would call this the Abe administration’s most important legislation, despite the passage of some heavyweight bills since the prime minister took office last September (including those for reforming the educational system and for holding a referendum on amending the Constitution).
The second snippet appeared in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the Japanese equivalent of the Wall Street Journal. They reported that the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition party, has been conducting a frenzied search since the end of May to find candidates to run in the single-member districts in the event a Lower House election is held. They trot out this quote by party Secretary-General Yukio Hatoyama: “It is vitally important that we take dissolution (of the Lower House) into consideration.” The Nikkei Shimbun also suggests the DLP’s sense of urgency stems from the LDP’s head start in selecting candidates to run in the next election.
Hiroshi has his doubts about this scenario: he thinks the New Komeito Party, the LDP’s coalition partner, detests the idea, and that the LDP’s huge majority in the Lower House should ensure the passage of the reform legislation anyway. He suspects the LDP might be threatening its Lower House members to straighten up and vote right.
While that’s possible, it also seems to be an empty threat to me—why would the LDP cut its nose off in the Lower House to spite its face? Their huge majority is probably going to be whittled down in the next election, regardless of the circumstances, the candidates, and the polls. Why not delay the election and hold on to that majority for as long as possible?
Of the theories Hiroshi discusses, the most plausible one is that the LDP is forcing the DLP to disperse their resources for the Upper House election, which is going to be held anyway.
I’ve dismissed the idea of a dual election here in the past, and I still think it’s unlikely to happen, but then again, the LDP didn’t become the dominant force in Japanese postwar politics by asking for my opinion.
Links to Japanese newspaper articles are as evanescent as the cherry blossoms in spring, so those who can read Japanese should follow the link to Japan Handlers, where Hiroshi conveniently cut and pasted the articles in full.