Quick political hits
Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, September 16, 2008
HERE ARE SOME quick hits from the world of Japanese politics:
Appearing on NHK and other network television programs on Sunday, Liberal-Democratic Party Secretary General Aso Taro, the odds-on favorite to replace Fukuda Yasuo as prime minister, hinted that a lower house election could come as early as next month.
Mr. Aso said the government was confronted with many problems, such as formulating comprehensive economic measures, and that if the opposition Democratic Party did not “properly respond”, calling an election would be the correct step to take.
Considering that the DPJ has seldom, if ever, made a proper political response since capturing the upper house last July, it would seem as if it’s time to start printing up campaign materials.
But some politicians didn’t even wait for Mr. Aso’s Sunday comments. The local LDP representative in my district has had generic campaign posters up for more than a week, and I saw the first poster for the local DPJ Diet member on Friday.
Mr. Aso’s statements on television were an anti-climax. The public already knew, just by walking down the street.
Bigger fish swallow the little fish
Cultural traditionalist and anti-reformer Hiranuma Takeo was thrown out of the LDP three years ago for failing to support Prime Minister Koizumi’s postal privatization plan. He has been promising/threatening to form a new political party for some time now—to create a “true conservative third way”–but hasn’t quite gotten around to it yet. He’s also been talking with DPJ head Ozawa Ichiro about forming a post-election alliance in the event the opposition forms a government. (Hopefully the people who thought the DPJ would bring real reform to Japan won’t be too disheartened.)
Now comes word from the Sankei Shimbun that Mr. Hiranuma will meet Watanuki Tamisuke and Kamei Shizuka of the People’s New Party in Tokyo on the 16th. The PNP is a small grouping of the other flotsam and jetsam heaved overboard by Mr. Koizumi during the postal privatization affair. They are expected to talk about a post-election alliance or, suggest some, the creation of yet another new party. That one might include the participation of Suzuki Muneo, the emotional and excitable ex-con who once held sway over a petty fiefdom within the LDP, but formed his own vanity party when he returned to the Diet after his release from prison. You can find some background on their association here.
That’s just one of the options being ground through the political rumor mill, however. The Asahi Shimbun reports that during a speech in Matsuyama on the 15th, DPJ boss Ozawa said that his party wants to coordinate their election effort with the PNP (i.e., not compete against each other in the same district), and that a merger of the two parties is a possibility.
He also plans to meet Mr. Watanuki on the 16th to sign a memorandum agreeing to a drastic reevaluation of the postal privatization scheme (i.e., kill it), if they ever get their hands on it as the ruling party/parties in government.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ozawa announced he is going to kick the dust off his shoes and leave the Iwate district he has represented since 1969 behind. Instead, he will run for reelection from a district in the Kanto region (i.e., greater Tokyo).
That does makes sense in a way. Over the past 40 years he’s probably spent more time in Tokyo than Iwate.
DPJ Secretary General Hatoyama Yukio said Sunday that Mr. Ozawa might even choose to go head-to-head with New Komeito leader Ota Akihiro in Tokyo’s #12 district. New Komeito, of course, is the junior partner in the LDP-led coalition government. Reported the Japan Times:
Hatoyama said it depends on “the distance between New Komeito” and the DPJ.
One possible translation: Play ball with us, Ota, and you have nothing to worry about.
As has been reported here before, there are rumors that discussions between the LDP and the DPJ to create a grand coalition continue, despite the furor such talk created last November. That’s because the upcoming election would result in even greater government gridlock if the LDP loses its lower house supermajority and the DPJ’s alliance doesn’t win outright. This time, rumor has it that the lower house seats allocated by proportional representation might be eliminated in such a scenario. That would effectively neuter the political importance of the smaller parties, including New Komeito.
Incidentally, no one was more surprised by the news that Mr. Ozawa wouldn’t run in Iwate than local party officials in Iwate. The DPJ boss has the reputation of behaving in a manner befitting the chieftain of a petty emirate, and it seems he forgot to tell anyone in his home prefecture that he would be leaving, much less why. Some in Iwate are holding out hope that his decision isn’t final, but have resigned themselves to finding another horse on short notice–after 40 years–if he’s gone for good.
People have said many things about Mr. Ozawa over the course of his career, and a lot more will probably be said about him before he’s done, but here’s one thing they’ll never say:
Ozawa Ichiro was an honorable man.