Japan from the inside out

You’d better think twice

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, June 1, 2011

THE POLITICAL MOBS are meeting in Tokyo this week to gird their loins and line up the troops in anticipation of the submission of a no-confidence motion in the Kan Cabinet by the opposition Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito. Judging from the surface turbulence, a lot of the squeezing and twisting that seems to be going on underwater would surely meet the disapproval of the Marquis of Queensbury. LDP upper house member Yamamoto Ichita commented that he didn’t think the motion had a chance of passage, but was surprised at the effort the ruling Democratic Party is expending to suppress the rebellion. He wonders if the situation within the DPJ might be more desperate than he suspected.

Here’s a taste of what he’s talking about. Justice Minister and ruling party member Eda Satsuki addressed Kan Naoto’s group/faction within the party yesterday, and said he was baffled that some in the party did not understand what a vote in support of that motion meant. I think they actually understand quite well what it means, but Mr. Eda made sure to remind those who didn’t:

“If there were a movement among some in the party in sympathy with the no-confidence motion, we would bury it with overwhelming force. I hope you really think seriously about this.”

The dread judge Mr. Eda and Mr. Kan, by the way, have been political pals for a long time. The first party both of them joined was a small group whose English name was the Socialist Democratic Federation. Come to think of it, Mr. Eda’s threat does have a whiff of the Politburo about it.

Meanwhile, Shimoji Mikio, secretary-general and parliamentary affairs chief of the People’s New Party, still part of the ruling coalition after all these years, met DPJ parliamentary affairs head Azumi Jun to let him know they would vote against the no-confidence measure. But he also delivered some pointed criticism:

“Half-baked threats are meaningless. Now you should be holding dialogues and working to unify the party.”

That’s an understandable position for the PNP. The party exists only because Koizumi Jun’ichiro threw some of them out of the LDP when they refused to back postal privatization.

At a news conference later, Mr. Shimoji said:

“The DPJ has more than 300 MPs in the lower house. The idea that there is a debate over whether or not the no-confidence motion will pass is strange in itself. Negligence on the part of DPJ leadership is the reason this situation has arisen, and it is very unpleasant.”

Another idea strange in itself is that the PNP continues to stay on board with the DPJ at all. For example, Mr. Shimoji also announced yesterday that the PNP opposes the DPJ plan to increase the consumption tax. The only reason this party of social conservatives has associated with a party of the left for this long is to kill the privatization of Japan Post. Such are the dilemmas of a single issue splinter party.

Contrary to Mr. Eda’s faux befuddlement, those members of the ruling coalition parties who have seriously considered voting for the measure know exactly what it means. At a minimum, they would be voting themselves out of the perks of power, and at worst, they would be voting themselves out of a job if a lower house election is called.

Yet some observers overseas blithely dismiss this whole episode as typical Japanese political infighting. If you want to see someone who doesn’t understand what the no-confidence motion means, that’s the direction in which to look.

There’s bound to be a whole lot of thinking goin’ on:

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