At the press availability in the aftermath of the meeting this afternoon between the leaders of the LDP and the DPJ, the press kept trying to cajole Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo into saying that he and DPJ leader Ozawa Ichirō had discussed a "coalition government" (renritsu seiken) or "a grand coalition" (dairenritsu). Before responding Prime Minister Fukuda would pause, release an ever so tiny sigh, and then repeat that he had merely suggested to Ozawa the need for a new political framework (shinseiji taisei) for the purpose of passing legislation...to which the members of the press corps would reply, "In other words, coalition government, right?"
Back and forth, back and forth.
The minor parties, both in the ruling and opposition camps, are shaking in their boots. Leaders of the opposition micro-parties have already released vigorous preemptive denunciations of a grand coalition, calling it a betrayal of the results of the July House of Councillors election...which is only partly true. Many of those persons who voted for the DPJ and other opposition parties in July were casting anti-LDP votes. A not insignificant number of them, though, were casting anti-Abe Shinzō votes. Technically, those could be considered pro-Fukuda Yasuo votes.
Whatever the lessons of July 2007, the sudden irruption of a serious discussion of policy coordination between the LDP and the DPJ promises a fabulous buildup to next week's party leaders debate in the Diet. Depending on what Ozawa, Hatoyama Yukio, Kan Naoto,
Extraordinary how the failure of the Diet to even consider the Indian Ocean dispatch renewal legislation has focused some minds upon how one can govern this blessed and complex land---and how one runs a government representing Japan as it is, rather than some phantom Japan that should be.
Later - Ozawa has just spoken to the press. He explained, very slowly and carefully, that the Prime Minister had held out the prospect of a coalition for the purpose of passing legislation important to the Japanese people. However, an immediately convened meeting of DJP members still had a majority opposed to a coalition. As a consequence, he (Ozawa) had given a negative response to the invitation to establish a coalition.
Of course, this does not mean the door has not been shut on "a new political framework" forever. It just will not happen this Diet session.
Let us see what happens in January. The political game gets a lot more serious as the days grow longer...because a budget has to be passed.