Wednesday, October 15, 2008

From the LDP's Potentially Way Bad Ideas Department

Irrational desires for electoral contests in the midst of financial crises are not restricted to Democratic Party of Japan leader Ozawa Ichirō, it seems.

Aso May Call Japan Lower House Elections Nov. 30, Yomiuri Says

By Sachiko Sakamaki -- Oct. 15 -- Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso may dissolve the lower house by the end of this month and call elections on Nov. 30, the Yomiuri newspaper reported, citing ruling-party officials it didn't name.

Aso's administration may announce a second economic- stimulus package Oct. 24 and then dissolve the lower house before it's approved, the newspaper said, citing the same Liberal Democratic Party officials...

A breathtakingly tight minuet will be necessary if the Liberal Democratic Part and the Democratic Party of Japan are to wipe up all pressing Diet business before the end of October.

The 2+2 schedule for Diet consideration of the Indian Ocean dispatch bill worked out between the ruling coalition and the DPJ has been thrown into disarray by the DPJ's allies in the House of Councillors. The ruling coalition and the DPJ agreed that there would be only two days of debate of the legislation in the House of Representatives, followed by a vote passing the bill. The bill would then go to the House of Councillors where, after two day's debate, it would be rejected. The House of Representatives would then override the decision of the upper house using the ruling coalition's two-thirds supermajority.

The DPJ's allies in the House of Councillors, the Socialists and the New People's Party, are now pressing the DPJ to renege on the deal. The Socialists and NPP want to have several days of debate on the bill in the House of Councillors, seemingly in order to prove to the populace that the Socialists and New People's Party do indeed still hold seats in the Diet.

The new schedule for the Maritime Self Defense Forces dispatch bill has the House of Representatives voting for its passage on October 21. The Prime Minister climbs aboard his plane on October 22 23 and flies to Peru for the APEC Beijing for the ASEM summit. While he is away, the government submits the bill to the House of Councillors, where the Socialists and the NPP get to play with it until October 28. On October 29 the House of Councillors rejects the bill. It is then is sent back to House of Representatives for an override vote. The bill becomes law. The PM then dissolves the Diet on October 30 (?), setting up an election on Sunday, November 30.

Of course, the opposition would really like to drill Prime Minister Asō in a party leader Question Time session at least once before he dissolves the Diet. The timing of this event is still under discussion, with the DPJ having already refused the government's first offer of the morning of October 22, just prior to Francisco's boarding his plane for Latin America.

Of course there is also the matter of trying to pass a second supplementary budget. We are, after all, ostensibly in the midst of a major financial crisis sure to impact the broader economy. Passage of a second supplementary budget, supplying the economy with a jolt of fiscal stimulus, could lessen the coming pain.

Now some clever puppies in the political world have suggested that the Prime Minister submit a second supplementary budget bill on October 24. The bill would then die a pathetic, patriotic death, giving up the ghost as a result of the Diet dissolution.

I fail to see what message the ruling coalition hopes to be sending by first submitting a second supplementary budget, then killing it. "There is nothing we will not do in a bid to cling to power!" perhaps?

Of course, all this calendar calethenics smells strongly of wishful thinking. Politicians probably got ahead of themselves yesterday, reading way too much into yesterday's record 1171 point rise of the Nikkei Average. The big jump upward probably made everyone a little giddy, dreaming of a mild and brief economic slowdown.

Today's middling result (the Nikkei Average rose less than 1%) may already be rearranging the fall Diet calendar. Should the recovery in stock prices stall out before reaching the 11,000 level --- 2000 points below the Nikkei's closes in August -- the ruling coalition will lack a "happy story" to wrap around their rather poor electoral prospects. The lack of a compelling narrative on the economic front would leave the LDP only one reason to hold an early contest: to get the election out of the way before Asō's popularity ratings sink like the ratings of his two most recent predecessors.

Is it just me, or is the thought of members of the LDP and the DPJ coordinating their work schedules in order to free up dates for a snap election not peculiar? A loss in the next election will likely lead to the implosion of the losing side. For political rivals with no common enemy and possibly no future post-election, such amiable collaboration is...bizarre.

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