Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ishihara Nobuteru's Interesting Gambits

Ishihara Shintaro, the elected, if not actual, governor of the Tokyo Metropolitan District, sure has made himself scarce since the death of the Ueno Zoo's panda cub yesterday morning.

It was Ishihara who hilariously, in his own mind, at least, suggested that the new cub be named Sen-sen, with a later sibling to be called Kaku-kaku, in order to form the duo Sen-kaku, to needle, oh so very cleverly, the owners of the pandas the TMD, the proprietor of Ueno Zoo, is paying somewhere aroung 1 million USD a year to display, and highlighting Ishihara's suddenly favorite uninhabited islets -- the TMD seemingly not having enough far-flung uninhabited islands to keep him occupied. (J)

I cannot decide whether it is Ishihara's unwisecrack or the significance of panda exchanges to Sino-Japanese relations that had Google News Japan listing the death of the cub among the "Politics" stories all morning long.

Ishishara's attempted purchase of the Senkakus pushed the central government to muscle in on the sale this week, spoiling Foreign Minister Gemba Ko'ichiro's meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Phnom Penh (E). The announcement of the government's plan to pip Ishihara and the TMD no doubt led to yesterday's riposte of Chinese fishery agency ships entering the 12 nautical mile exclusion zone about the Senkakus.(E)

While Ishihara Senior has been creating headaches for the Noda Cabinet, #1 son Ishihara Nobuteru, the Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party, has been a positive boon for Noda Yoshihiko and his Democratic Party of Japan.

Yesterday, it was Nobuteru who delivered the most devastating of the many put-downs of Ozawa Ichiro's new Putting the People's Livelihood First Party:
"Cannot raise the consumption tax; eliminate the nuclear power plants... Can you protect the people's livelihood this way? Waving the Manifesto the DPJ could not carry out, will they not just go on down the same road the DPJ has come down?"

(Link - J)
Politician that he is (and long has he enjoyed my appreciation of his dedication to his craft), Ishihara did not rule out working with the Livelihood Party on a no-confidence motion against the Noda government.  However, he did say he would do so only following "an exhaustive examination of the situation."

On the same day, Ishihara hosted a coming out press conference for former Olympic speed skater Horii Manabu. Horii, a bronze medal winner at the Lillehammer Olympics, has been assigned the role of "assassin" (shikaku) of former prime minister Hatoyama Yukio, challenging him for the Hokkaido #9 seat in the House of Representatives. With Hatoyama the biggest, most pustulent boil on the face of the DPJ, the LDP's selection of a strong candidate to unseat him is like a Christmas gift in July to the prime minister and his party.

On paper, upending Hatoyama is a daunting task. He humiliated his 2009 LDP opponent, a former toy company employee (the beauty of the politics of this blessed land...I never have to make anything up), winning 66% of the vote to the LDP candidate's 26%.

However, Hatoyama was carried upon the wings of the public's rage against the LDP and Hatoyama's presumptive election as prime minister should the DPJ win and win big.

Since August 2009, Hatoyama has only stumbled, embarrassing his constituents. The manner by which he was forced to relinquish his premiership was epic in its combination of hubris, mendacity and blind stupidity. On one visit to his home prefecture, he mused about retiring from politics to take up farming, only to rescind that plan a week later.

Hatoyama's constituents would also not be out of place asking the Tokyo transplant: "Excuse us, but what have you done for us lately?" In Horii, the voters would have a chance to vote for someone who actually achieved something in his life, without his wealthy mother having bankrolled it.

The helpful Ishihara has also recently positioned himself as the next likely leader of the LDP. He did so by, paradoxically, declaring on July 6 that if current LDP President Tanigaki Sadakazu presented himself as a candidate for the party presidency in September, he, Ishihara, would support him. In the deliciously contrarian world of LDP internal politics, this was a knife in Tanigaki's back.

The primary qualifications of a candidate for the LDP presidency are loyalty and a studied disinterest in becoming president. By expressing his desire to be loyal to Tanigaki, Ishihara has put pressure on Tanigaki to reciprocate by not seeking reelection. Ishihara punctuated his camouflaged request with a whomping non-sequitur:
"If there is no dissolution of the Diet, there will be all kinds of folks coming out as candidates. I too may have to think about it."

(Link - J)
Try thinking that statement through. Think of the counterfactual: the Diet is dissolved, and an election is held. Tanigaki, as the president of the party, leads his forces into electoral battle. If the LDP triumphs, Tanigaki, as the president of the LDP, becomes the presumptive prime minister while Ishihara is rewarded with a reappointment to the position to the post of secretary-general. If the LDP fails to make significant gains, or is indeed wiped out, Tanigaki, if he still has a seat in the Diet, immediately resigns, setting up a leadership election. Ishihara, as the point man on elections, at least according to LDP tradition, follows Tanigaki into disgrace and becomes ineligible for the presidency.

So while sounding as though it says something, the statement actually says nothing -- except, of course, silently, "Tanigaki-san, if you cannot push the Noda Cabinet to the wall before the end of the Diet session on September 8, you had better get the heck out of my way."

Wonderful, wonderful stuff...


Len Schoppa said...

I expect the DPJ may be stuck with Hatoyama even if Horii can win more votes in the single-member district. The DPJ is strong in Hokkaido and wins most of the single member seats while also winning many PR votes, so district candidates who LOSE in Hokkaido have a good chance of securing a PR seat.

MTC said...

Dr. Schoppa -

The DPJ leadership does have to tread lightly with regards to 18 party members like Hatoyama who voted against the consumption tax legislation yet remained inside the party, less so with the 15 who abstained from the vote.

I would disregard the threat Noda is reported as having made yesterday in Diet testimony: that those DPJ members who do support the consumption tax law will not be official DPJ district candidates. I believe that to be a misinterpretation of what Noda said (and worthy of a blog post).

What I do believe is that those who do not express full support for the new manifesto and the clause it will contain on the consumption tax law, will not find their names on the party proportional list. That little surprise can be sprung upon the dissenters at the last moment, when they can no longer change their registrations.

In Hatoyama's case, his sense of entitlement and personal wealth are both so grand he is already an independent (hence my referring to him as a DINO). He most definitely will not be readmitted to the Diet as a DPJ zombie, despite his having co-founded the party and bankrolled it through its early years.