After threatening before the vote on a no confidence motion against the Cabinet to expell Democratic Party of Japan members of the House of Representatives should they vote for the motion or abstain from it, DPJ Secretary-General Okada Katsuya yesterday signed off on a less stringent set of punishments for the majority of the 17 members who did not vote against the measure. While the two DPJ members who voted for the motion were indeed expelled from the party, the 15 abstainers and no-shows escaped a post-vote threat of a one year suspension of party privileges. In a huge step down, the party leadership will merely issue a strict warning to first-termers among the miscreant 15, while suspending party privileges for a three month period for those members with two or more elections to the Diet. Ozawa Ichiro, the DPJ member who would have been most responsible for the passage of the no confidence motion, had it happened, who did not show up for the vote after his (former?) friend Hatoyama Yukio* cut a deal with Prime Minister Kan Naoto on Kan’s eventual resignation and who already has had his party privileges under suspension pending the outcome of his trial on political funding violations, received no punishment at all. Okada had considered booting Ozawa out of party, mostly out of a frustrated need to do something in response to Ozawa’s machinations. He was talked out this decision by the wily DPJ House of Councillors leader and Ozawa friend Koshiishi Azuma.
The rather weak set of punishments meted out to the 17 misbehaving DPJ House members are most likely an indication of how seriously the current central core leadership worries about the outcome of this week’s general meeting of DPJ Diet members. A strict response would have sent the useful message to the members that when Okada and the party leadership issue threats they mean what they say. However, actually meting out strict punishments would set some members to thinking that perhaps they should think about their futures in some other party. While failing to deliver on a threat can be a sign of weakness, being magnanimous in victory can be viewed as a sign of strength.
Either way, with their privileges revoked, the elder elements of the rebels, in particular the razor-tongued Tanaka Makiko, will have no say at the party general meeting later this week. This alone represents a small victory for Okada and the core leadership
* If you click on only one link in this post, click on this one. Hilarious data entry error.