Yesterday, the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito stopped dilly-dallying about the request from Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko for direct talks between himself and LDP President Tanigaki Sadakazu, New Komeito Leader Yamaguchi Kunio and the heads of the other parties in the Diet. Democratic Party of Japan Diet Affairs Chairman Jojima Koriki put the question of negotiations prior to Diet discussions to the six Diet Affairs chairmen of the non-government parties. New Party Kizuna and interestingly the Communists were the only parties that agreed with the governing coalition's proposal. The other parties indicated that the legislation is only half-baked (literally, "not fully boiled") and needs to be discussed in the Diet, starting with the party leaders debate on the 11th. (J)
The primary subject Noda wants to talk about with the two leaders of the main opposition parties would be the passage of legislation enabling the government to raise the consumption tax to 10% by the year 2014. Since the raising of the consumption tax to 10% was in the LDP's manifesto for the 2010 House of Councillors election (J), talking with Noda about smoothing Diet passage of legislation raising the tax to 10% should be a given. Refusing to meet with the PM to discuss the subject is thus equivalent to Tanigaki and Kawaguchi sticking their fingers in their ears and baying, "Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah. I can't hear you!"
Unfortunately, the same day the decision to not meet with Noda came down, the LDP released its campaign manifesto for the next House of Representatives election -- an election that the LDP and the New Komeito would like to precipitate by refusing to cooperate with the government on any legislation or by passing only a limited number of bills in exchange for a dissolution of the Diet -- the so-called "discussion dissolution" (hanashiai kaisan).
Somewhat unexpectedly, the news media took the confluence of these two events as an opportunity to paint the LDP as a party that puts political maneuvering (seikyoku) ahead of policy (seisaku).
"The LDP - Fighting Specifically and With Fervor on the Raising of the Consumption Tax to '10%'; Its Integrity Now Being/Can be Questioned"
"The LDP: a rise of the consumption tax to 10% in its campaign promises"
"The LDP Announces Its Campaign Manifesto: The Consumption Tax 'To 10%, For The Time Being'"
LDP: The Consumption Tax 'To 10%, For The Time Being'...Its Current Manifesto for the House of Representatives Election
Nihon Keizai Shimbun
"The LDP's Current Manifesto, A Desperate 'To 10%, For The Time Being,' With A Discussion Dissolution Included"
"The LDP: Efforts As A Responsible Opposition Party Are Lacking"
When the nation's top business paper, the voice of the establishment and morning paper of the furthest right wing rap you on the knuckles over your shenanigans, you are in serious trouble.
True to its transparent and voluntary role as the unofficial party organ of the LDP, the Yomiuri Shimbun did its best to ignore the glaring contradiction in between the party's promises and its present actions, preferring to focus in its reporting on other parts of the manifesto, skating right past the consumption tax issue:
"The Current LDP Manifesto: From Nuclear Power Policy to the TPP,
The bold effort at willful blindness is sort of the Yomiuri Shimbun's way of saying to the other news outlets, "Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah. I can't hear you!"
Raising the consumption may be unpopular in general, the most recent NHK polls showing 36% of voters opposed to the legislation with another 35% with lukewarm feelings about it. Only 25% of voters favor the government's plan to raise the consumption tax to 10% -- which I suppose is not a bad level of support for a tax rise in a sluggish economy. The attempt to blast the consumption tax legislation first through the DPJ, where about of a quarter of the membership has serious qualms about the legislation, and the through the Diet is not helping the popularity of the Noda Cabinet and the DPJ. Both lost support from last month's tallies -- though possibly not in a statistically significant way -- the constant caveat necessary given that Japanese pollsters never advertise their margins of error. (J and J)
However, as the concerted attack, the Yomiuri excepted, on Tanigaki's ducking the invitation to meet with Noda shows that the press does not consider the consumption tax issue one the LDP and the New Komeito can evade, no matter how hard they may try to do so.
Later - Many thanks to the Chrysanthemum Sniffer for his suggestion that I revisit my translation of the Yomiuri title.