If this is dictatorship, maybe we need more dictators
Over the past few weeks, a debate has broken out within the LDP over the severity of the punishments to be meted out to the LDP postal rebels. Simple logic would dictate that the rebels and their fellow travelers should be expelled from the party forthwith. Any lighter punishment would make a mockery of the recent election, which at its heart was a plebiscite on the rejection of the postal reform bills.
Since 1945, however, a not insignificant fraction of the citizenry has been led to believe that you can get out of being punished for a transgression if you tell everyone, out loud, that you are really, really sorry for having committed it.
For reasons most execrable, the postal rebels of the House of Representatives are trying to take advantage of this misguided magnanimity. Of the rebels who were elected to the Diet as independents, only Hiranuma Takeo voted against the postal legislation again. The other 11 independents tucked their tails in between their legs, announced that they had been wrong in both voting against the bills in August and in running against LDP-appointed candidates, and humbly voted for the legislation.
Koizumi loyalists, most prominently the neo-Jacobin Koizumi Children, have demanded the heads of the rebels. Other less sanguinary members of the LDP, recognizing that one day they may find their own heads on the chopping block, have been pushing for reinstatement following an apology. Koizumi himself has not delivered a final verdict but is likely in favor of an imposition of the ultimate sanction.
Wisely, the PM grabbed a chance today to demonstrate that pitilessness and severity toward traitors is not the same as intolerance for dissent. In a move that can only redound to his credit, he encouraged the members of his cabinet to speak their minds on the record about his visit yesterday to Yasukuni. Two member of his cabinet, Land, Infrastructure and Transport minister Kitagawa Kazuo and National Public Safety Commission chairman Murata Yoshitaka seized the opportunity to tell the press that they felt the PM should not have visited the shrine.
Now, this may be a "Hundred Maple Leaves Campaign" where the cabinet members who expressed opposing views mark themselves as targets for the next round of party purges. More likely, however, Koizumi set the cabinet membership free to express opposing views in order to deflate opposition warnings that the LDP's extraordinary victory margin in the September elections laid the groundwork for a Koizumi dictatorship of the majority.
Speculation indulge in do I, but the prime minister is probably particularly disappointed in Noda Seiko. She opposed the postal bills out of principle, unlike the Democrats who voted against the legislation in order to provoke a political crisis. If she had remained defiant and had voted against the legislation again, Koizumi would have respected her for sticking to her guns, even as he could not agree with her vote or permit to her remain an LDP party member. Now, she is just another pol, shifting and recalibrating in order to keep her options open. No hinkaku at all.