Of course I want to write a contrarian post about the present situation inside the Democratic Party of Japan and the Diet following the House of Representatives vote on the three bills paving the way for a raising of the consumption tax, insulting along the way a whole raft of persons, including:
- Hatoyama Yukio
- Ozawa Ichiro
- Tanigaki Sadakazu
- Yamaoka Kenji
- Watanabe Yoshimi
However, such was the jet lag from my trip that when I sat down at my computer, I could see five objects on the screen when I knew there were only three -- meaning I was in no shape to try to tackle the grand opera performance we folks in the cheap seats are not expected to even think about, much less understand.
Suffice it to say that not all the 57 members of the DPJ who voted against the bills or the 16 members who sat out the vote are necessarily ready to commit political suicide out their love for Ozawa Ichiro. A certain fraction are true believers, with enough brains to figure out what their interests are but incapable of seeing that their dear leader is only using them, alternating between bullying and flattering them, terrifying them into craving his approval. A goodly number, the most senior members of the cabal, have made the journey with Ozawa from party to party -- meaning they are just flunkeys, with scarcely a brain wave disturnbing their cerebellums. There are also idiot-savants like Hatoyama who have such a blind faith in the Doctrine of the Mean that they forget the Texas Rule of Politics: "The only things in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead armadillos."
It should also be remembered that the larger-than-expected number of nay-voters and abstainers may not represent a victory for Ozawa but indeed a failure of the imagination of the prognosticators. Think about it: you are a fence sitter in the DPJ, not tight with Ozawa but not tight with the mainstream leadership either. You have a tough election fight ahead of you. The New Komeito and the Liberal Democratic Party are all in on the vote, meaning it will pass by a huge margin. Why not be on record as an opponent of tax rises?
As for the threat to the cohesion of the DPJ, one cannot threaten that which has never existed. Every voter in 2009 had read what was on the DPJ label -- "Contents do not represent an organized political party, just an organized movement against the LDP. Westministerian-like levels of party discipline will be freakish and brief." (E)
The electorate also knew, because the newspapers, magazines and news programs went over the numbers in excrutiating detail, that the 2009 manifesto was a Potemkin Village, an improbable passel of promises to every possible constituency -- and that electorate was still was willing to grant the DPJ a huge majority in the House of Representatives.
As for Ozawa, he is on trial again. Ostensibly, he should have been stripped of his party privileges upon the refiling of charges against him. That he has not means that the party central leadership can choose to strip him of his privileges, making it impossible for him to run or even vote in the September DPJ leadership election. All those who followed his lead in voting against the legislation could suffer similar, if lesser, trimmings of their wings. If those are not punishments eliminating Ozawa's influence on party affairs, then what are? Recall that Ozawa already ordered an auto-purge of his followers from their government and party positions in April. Without party privileges, the rebels are dead to the party.
So whatever it is that Koshi'ishi Azuma and Ozawa Ichiro will be discussing this afternoon, it is likely not the end of Noda Yoshihiko's world.