Friday, August 05, 2005

Get out your handkerchiefs!

It was a hot time in the Diet today--and not just because it was 35 degrees in the shade and Koizumi government policy sets the air conditioners at 28 degrees in central government buildings.

As you know, the powers that be in the House of Councilors delayed the vote on postal reform until at least Monday. Instead of the vote, they scheduled a question and answer session where representatives of the parties were allowed to questions of Prime Minister Koizumi and the economics ministers.

From the outset, the PM indicated he did not think much of this supplementary question and answer session. He ranged widely in his criticisms and barbs, skirting contempt of the House in his refusal to answer the questions put to him. His questioners grew progressively more infuriated, waving at the committee chairman to warn the PM to stay on topic. It was all wonderously sweaty, intemperate and mean-spirited.

The PM is beyond caring now--he is burning every bridge, whether in front or behind him. Last night when a reporter asked him what he thinks about the opinions expressed by his fellow LDP members--that the party is poised for defeat if he dissolves the Diet and forces a House of Representatives election--he stared straight at the questioner and said, with quiet malice, "Well then, they better make sure the bill gets passed by the House of Councilors on Monday." With no political heirs and no followers (well, Financial Reconstruction Minister Takenaka--but he can always go back to teaching and lecturing), Koizumi has no need to protect the LDP as an institution.

This is not to say that Koizumi is fond of Okada and the Democrats. The reduction bureaucratic control of the economy is a primary policy promise of the Democratic Party. Privatization of Japan Post should be a reform the Democrats support avidly. However, in order to precipitate a political crisis, the Democrats have chose to vote en bloc against the legislation. While Koizumi appreciates the political maneuvering of the Democrats, he clearly wishes the crisis had been provoked over legislation less near and dear to him.

Anyway, I put the odds as 7 to 3 against the legislation passing on Monday. If it fails, Koizumi will dissolve the Diet and thrust the country into a whirlwind political campaign in the midst of the hottest time of the year.

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