It's been a bad day (Please don't take my picture!)As scheduled, the House of Councillors censured Defense Minister Tanaka Naoki and Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Maeda Takeshi. Their business done, members of the House from the Liberal Democratic Party promptly stood up and strode out of the chamber, making a spectacle of their party leaders' threats to boycott all Diet business until Tanaka and Maeda are either fired or resign.
It's been a bad day (Pleeeaaze!)
- REM "Bad Day"(2003)
Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko has sworn he will not force the ministers to resign -- which we can assume is code begging the two to resign. DPJ Secretary-General Koshi'ishi Azuma, who is looking older and older these days, as if that were physically possible, continues to hold to an improbable line that there are no reasons for the two ministers in question to resign.
Technically, Koshi'ishi is correct: the censure motion is a symbolic measure with no legal consequences. However, with the LDP and the New Komeito refusing to consider any legislation pending in the House of Councillors, indeed boycotting committee meetings, the ostensibly sanction-free measure has teeth. Fujii Hirohisa, the equally venerable but not so sepuchral-looking as Koshi'ishi head of the DPJ's tax committee (whose resignation from the Hatoyama Cabinet for health reasons looks more and more suspect every day) has asked the prime minister to bow to the inevitable and fire Tanaka and Maeda if he wants to save the consumption tax rise legislation, the supposed cornerstone of his political program (J).
To make the survival of Maeda and Tanaka even less likely, the Tokyo Prosecutors Office Special Investigations Branch (cue Star Wars Imperial March music) on Friday accepted documents accusing Maeda and others with violations of the public elections law. Maeda's use of his office's stature and materials in order to influence the Gero City mayoral election is indisputable. The prosecutors' failing to transform the charges into an indictment would shock the conscience. (J)
So Maeda must go, and with the undertow he generates, Tanaka must be swept out with him. Having pledged in his victory speech in last fall's DPJ leader election to be a "no-sides" party leader, meaning that he will choose his cabinet and fellow party leaders based not upon ability but on fair representation of all the different groups within the party, Noda harvests the rotten fruit of his ill-considered magnanimity.
Former Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro, wherever he is hanging out right now, must be thinking, "Noda-san, when I was prime minister, were you not taking notes? Even Ozawa Ichiro, who accepts no one as his equal, saw that my way of tossing into the trash the candidate lists from the faction leaders, appointing the competent and firing even the popular when they caused trouble was the only way to run this blessed land."
Image: Maeda Takeshi (L) and Tanaka Naoki (R) leaving the Cabinet meeting room on April 17, 2012.
Image courtesy: Mainichi Shimbun