Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Francisco, We Need a Modification

Tobias Harris returns to the fray in fine form with a smart essay about the Prime Minister's troubles.

Francisco has been given a huge gift in political terms -- a worldwide economic crisis -- and seems likely to wring from it the paltriest of victories. Terrible economic data on the homefront and hideous news from bourses around the world last week ("Events, dear boy, events.") seem to have turned the tide, making it suicidal for the DPJ to try to delay the stimulus package. If Harris is right, and there is no reason he should not be, the House of Councillors will pass the bill before the end of next week.

This should be great news for the PM: the DPJ will have buckled on one of the points he outlined in his provocative policy speech to the Diet.

However, by voting for the stimulus package, the DPJ wins. The size of the package is insufficient to put a dent with the crisis at hand, much less put the brakes on the coming severe economic slide. The markets continue to tumble. In real economic terms, the stimulus package will likely be a damp squib.

Nevertheless , by showing that it is capable of putting aside its concerns in an emergency situation and vote for something while holding its nose, the DPJ has shown maturity...which the LDP has been arguing the DPJ lacks.

Point for the DPJ.

Of course, it remains to be seen how the public will react to Ozawa Ichirō's sudden and untimely hospitalization for a cold, demonstrating in the most physical way his chronic inability to "hold his nose and vote for something,"* a characteristic Koike Yuriko, a former ally, has recently highlighted as a character flaw rendering Ozawa unfit for higher office.

The passage of the stimulus bill opens the door for Francisco to revive the government's Plan A - "Pass the stimulus package and run for the exits." The PM may well dissolve the Diet, as few of the other possible issues his government could tackle would have much impact at the ballot box.

Nevertheless, it would be unlikely for him to pull the trigger now - for two reasons. One, because the chaotic world economic situation demands that Japan have a government right now (actually a non-trivial point, in electoral terms) and two, because the LDP's election strategy has been to portray the DPJ as being unreasonable and thus unworthy.

Which will would be somewhat difficult in the immediate aftermath of the DPJ's having shown itself willing to compromise and go back on its word for the public good.

* Yes, I know Ozawa is in the House of Representatives. Cut me some slack here.

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