A little before 7 pm local time, news bulletin flashed across the screen of the TV: three Vice Ministers and 2 Parliamentary Secretaries turned in their resignations to the government. The five men, all close to former Democratic Party of Japan leader Ozawa Ichiro, declared that they had to resign in order to be free to vote for the no confidence motion the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito submitted to the Diet this afternoon.
With this action, the grand experiment of the DPJ, a majority party alternative to the LDP, seems to have come to an end.
DPJ Secretary General Okada Katsuya has threatened to expel from the party any member voting for the no confidence motion. The five now former members of the government have effectively expelled themselves.
From the meetings that have been going on over the last 48 hours, the five almost will certainly not be the last do so. This evening Ozawa met with about 70 of his loyalists, most likely to urge them to vote for the no confidence motion. At the meeting, the extremely ambitious former Transportation Minister Haraguchi Kazuhiro, though he is not formally an Ozawa loyalist, said he would be voting for the no confidence resolution. Hatoyama Yukio, who met with Kan for 2 hours and 10 minutes yesterday, has indicated that he is suppporting the no-confidence motion (proving once again that not only does he lack even the most basic reconciliation skills, he has no compunctions against wasting a sitting prime minister's time).
For the past few days the news media has been explaining that with all members of the Diet present and voting, 81 members of the ruling coalition would have to vote for the no confidence motion for the motion to pass. The Communists, however, have just announced that they will be abstaining from the vote. They may not like the Kan Cabinet but they certainly they despise the LDP. They would rather die than vote for an LDP-sponsored motion.
With the Communists out of the picture, the hurdle for the anti-Kan forces creeps a little higher – to 85 members needed to defect from the ruling coalition for the vote against the Cabinet to pass.
Will Ozawa and his ever faithful basset hound Hatoyama Yukio round up 85 votes from amongst the DPJ members of the House of Representatives to vote for the no confidence motion? Quite possibly. Will Okada have to expel from the party all those who vote for the no confidence motion? Quite definitely.
So even if Ozawa and Hatoyama fall a few votes short of the 85 they need to topple Kan, they seem to have already have already done something far worse to the country: blown the DPJ to pieces.
Oh, it is not official yet -- the five DPJ officials who resigned their posts today may have just misread Ozawa's hints and body language and in so doing done in none but themselves -- but it looks like Ozawa the Destroyer has done it again.